Even after more than 55 years in the music industry, Charlie Daniels will not tire of his lifelong trade.
“I love what I do,” the guitarist and fiddler said last week by phone from Rhinelander, Wis., where the Charlie Daniels Band had arrived to play the Hodag Country Festival. The group will fill the stage Friday in the Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach.
Daniels said “everything to do with the music business” pleases him – writing, recording, interviews – “the whole thing.”
Most of all, though, performing live, “that’s where it’s all at,” Daniels said, where “I always feel right at home.”
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The Grand Ole Opry member, who lives near Nashville, Tenn., also has rebounded since March when treatment for a bout of pneumonia prompted tests that led to implanting of a pacemaker for his heart rate.
Daniels, who turns 77 this autumn, said the pacemaker – one of life’s subjects he said he had not pondered until its necessity – has remained unobtrusive in his daily life.
“You forget you got it and that it’s there,” he said happily in a voice as deep and resonant in conversation as in song.
Asked about other artists’ interpretations of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” such as the Zac Brown Band playing for a nationally televised awards show a few years ago, Daniels said the “stage version” has grown from the original studio recording in 1979 that also helped carry the “Urban Cowboy” movie soundtrack.
He said the anthem has gotten longer with additional elements found through years of performance and band chemistry.
“Sometimes, some of the best have just happened on stage,” Daniels said, crediting colleagues who can look at one another and fit a new twist in.
“You just king of jump in and do it, and do it that way,” he said of trying a new twist. “The music is constantly evolving, and music should be constantly growing.”
Daniels called a guitar cover of “Devil” by the late Jerry Reed “just a killer,” and he convinced Keith Urban to ease his reticence to play it for him.
“I gradually talked him into it,” Daniels said. “It was just mind blowing. ... It all comes out when he plays.”
Daniels also lent his guitar hand at the 2013 Country Music Association Music Festival last month in Nashville, Tenn., joining Brad Paisley for his single “Karate” and reprising some parts from “Devil.” Highlights from that four-day fest will air 8-11 p.m. Aug. 12 on ABC.
Daniels edited a book, “Growing Up Country: What Makes Country Life Country,” published in 2007 by Flying Dolphin Press/Broadway Books.
“My part was pretty simple,” he said, compared with the publishers, who rounded up the contributors. “Their part was the biggest part.”
Grateful for the gift of music that has shaped his life, Daniels has seen his career blossom from early ventures that included co-writing “It Hurts Me,” recorded by Elvis Presley, session guitar work for Bob Dylan and producing the Youngbloods’ “Elephant Mountain” album at the close of the 1960s.
Reflecting on “very humble beginnings” and a blue-collar background, Daniels said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He struck a serious tone in voicing his concern for tough economic times that continue. He stressed he’s not making a political statement about his aversion to seeing government get “so top heavy” in spending and entitlements that “it can’t function.”
“Look at any socialist government,” he said. “They all fail. They can’t work.”
Daniels stays active in charity benefits all year long, and he does plenty of traveling across the country he salutes in “In America.” He said he probably would get back to his city of birth, Wilmington, N.C., more often if it were on the way to other places. Still, although it’s not in on a cross roads, say like Dallas, Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., “or any number of places” besides the ones he just named, he enjoys visiting this corner of the Carolinas. Daniels brought his band in April to the Florence Civic Center.
Ready for a return to the Alabama Theatre, he also remembered that he’s “always had a good time” entertaining on the Grand Strand.
And look for the man known for singing as a “Long Haired Country Boy” to remind everyone, “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.”