At 83 years-young, Charlie Daniels passed away on July 6, 2020. Filmed at his home studio in Nashville last year, this never-before-seen conversation with the Country music legend was much more than a chit-chat with a musical giant – it was a glimpse into the heart of a man educated and inspired by a lifetime of family, faith, and of course, music.
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made
I see the sun, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed
Andrew: That gritty, warm, Southern voice you are listening to belongs to none other than country music legend Charlie Daniels. On Monday, July 6, 2020, Charlie died of a stroke near his home just east of Nashville, Tennessee. He was 83. Mark and I had the incredible privilege of filming an episode of Dinner Conversations with Charlie at his home studio recently. We intended on airing the episode as part of next year’s Season Four lineup. But when Mark and our assistant director, Chris Cameron, called me with the news that Charlie had just passed away, well, we all agreed It would be most poignant and most appropriate to share this conversation now. Our table talk with Charlie was much more than a chitchat with a musical celebrity. Rather as dinner progressed, this giant of a man began sharing from his heart about a lifetime journey with his family, his faith, and of course his music, which has impacted so many. And hopefully through conversations like these will impact many more. Even with the assurances of faith, the passage onto the other side of living is quite a mysterious one. And so when anyone passes away, we pause to remember and to reflect on a life well lived. But also to gaze into the heavens and ponder what it must be like to finally be at peace and to be at home. This conversation with Charlie is our small contribution to remembering and reflecting on his life here on Earth. And it is our way of pondering together with you the many signs that already point us all home.
Mark: Well, today was just so much fun. I had a different perception of Charlie Daniels than I’m leaving with. You know, in my mind, I think of a bad boy, a country singer with sunglasses, and every other word’s a cuss word, you know, in the songs, I mean, if you listen. But not that much, but I mean just more than Beverly would approve.
Andrew: Yeah, and kind of down and dirty.
Mark: And so I was listening to the songs coming over here and I’m getting prepared, you know. And I meet a Bible scholar, a guy, and I even asked him, I said, “What about all that cussing?” “No, I don’t do that anymore,” he said, “because the songs really don’t need it.” Well, you’ll hear. I’m telling you, you’re going to love this guy. He is one of us.
Andrew: Yeah, he is. You see in our conversation his evolution process from a young man into now an 82-year-old. Just what I love is not just a veteran of music but a veteran of life. We got this opportunity through a new book that Charlie’s doing called Let’s All Make the Day Count, and this book is a lot of that wisdom in one place. And we think we captured a lot of that wisdom on camera today.
Mark: And we have one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. So let’s join the conversation.
Mark: You wanna pray?
Andrew: Okay, yeah.
Mark: Are we ready? Are we ready? Okay. Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: Father– Oh, you were going–
Mark: No, you go.
Andrew: I thought you asked me.
Charlie: We’re gonna have a millennial prayer.
Mark: Yeah, it might reach the ceiling.
Andrew: It’ll pray for all things and people to go to heaven. All right. Lord Jesus, thank you for today. Thank you for Charlie and already his friendship, and Paula, and for their hospitality, and for Kelly and Alison and Richard and Chris and Mark. Just gift us with conversation that somehow reveals more of who you are.
Andrew: And we love you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Andrew: So in your studio, first.
Charlie: We are in my studio.
Mark: Where the magic happens.
Charlie: The hard work is what happens really actually.
Mark: Now, was “Devil Went Down to Georgia” recorded here?
Charlie: Oh no, this studio is not that old. “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was 40-years-old this month. We recorded it 40 years ago, and I can’t remember the date. It was either last month or this month it was 40-years-old. We recorded it at Woodland Sound in Nashville.
Mark: And so you must’ve been 40-something.
Charlie: Something like that.
Mark: You had been already performing a long, long time.
Charlie: Oh yeah.
Mark: But that’s the big… That changed everything, didn’t it?
Charlie: The first hit I ever had was in 1973. It was called “Uneasy Rider.” It was a novelty song.
Charlie: And it made a big splash in the pop radio, in country radio, but it was not an album seller. It was a novelty song, and a lot of times novelty songs don’t have the depth to make people want to go and listen to the rest of the album and see what’s on it. It’s just like that one thing.
Mark: You’re right.
Charlie: Did well as a single, but the first album we ever had that did good was in 1974. It was called Fire On the Mountain. It had a song called “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Caballo Diablo” and “Long-Haired Country Boy” in those tunes. And we got a lot of radio airplay on it. It kinda kicked things along. And then we had some other albums that did fairly well, but the one that really kicked it into high gear was in ’79. It was called Million Mile Reflections, had “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on it. I’ll tell you a little story about that.
Mark: Yeah, please.
Andrew: And eat, please eat.
Charlie: We had written and rehearsed an album’s worth of material. We were changing producers. We had guy that was coming in from L.A. named John Boylan, and he was bringing an L.A. engineer with him. We were fixing to go kind of a little different direction. And we had written and rehearsed an album’s worth of material. And we got in the studio and came to the screaming realization we didn’t have a fiddle song. Now, why we didn’t realize that before we went in I don’t know, but we took a break. We moved the equipment into a rehearsal studio, and I had this one line in mind that where it came from… I think it came from an old Stephen Vincent Benét poem called “Mountain Whippoorwill” that had to do with a fiddling contest. But that line stuck in my mind, and so we started, the drummer started playing a beat–
Mark: The line? What line?
Charlie: “Devil went down to Georgia.”
Mark: Oh, that line.
Charlie: And the funny thing about it is this line is not in the poem, but I think the poem… I was a young fiddle player in high school when I read it, and I think it just kind of stuck with me. It was about a fiddle contest about a guy, a kid, that went and played in this fiddle contest against all these legendary fiddle players, you know, about they could do anything. They could fiddle down a bug from a sweet potato vine, fiddled down a possible from a mile-high tree, and all these legendary guys. But when he got to it, this little kid from back in the mountain said, “But nobody played about the whippoorwill. Nobody played about the sky and the trees.” And he goes through this long thing about it. And it was his time. And he walks on stage and he starts playing all this stuff. And when he finishes, everybody is just totally silent, and he thinks that he’s bombed out. And then all of a sudden it explodes and he’s, you know. So basically what he comes down to, he played his heart, you know, and that just stuck with me all those years. So I guess I started thinking along those lines and came up with it.
Andrew: Your heart’s the devil.
Mark: And a deadline. Isn’t– What did you say? See, millennial. He said your heart’s the devil.
Andrew: I said the guy played from the heart. Then the devil went to Georgia and came out of yours.
Charlie: I don’t know what he means.
Mark: I don’t either.
Charlie: I don’t speak millennials.
Mark: Out of all the songs you’ve written, is there any song you would not write if you had to do it over? Wouldn’t waste the time?
Mark: What would that be?
Andrew: Which one?
Charlie: I wrote a song one time many years ago called “The Universal Hand,” where I lumped some deities together. I mean, I say lumped them together. I didn’t lump them together, but like I acknowledged, you know, some not in a worshipful way, and I didn’t mean to, you know. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I was not as versed as I was at the time. I wish I had not written that.
Andrew: What does it say?
Charlie: It just talks about Allah, talks about the thing that the universal hand is like. Cause I used to think, you know, as a lot of people do, I thought that, there’s one God. And I thought he was, you know, all the, not the Buddhist or Indians or anything like that. But I thought that was, I thought that–
Andrew: God was God.
Charlie: I thought they had a very weird view of him, but I thought that, you know, I come to find out that there’s no way once I got to reading the Bible. I was raised listening to what the preacher said in the pulpit as far as the Bible is concerned. We used to read two or three verses a night maybe, and that was about it. And I decided, I got so confused I left a Baptist, actually a Methodist, background, and started going to a Holiness church.
Charlie: Holiness, Pentecostal.
Charlie: I kinda jumped out of the frying pan into the fire from one thing I didn’t understand into another thing I didn’t understand. You know, this was very staid and very formal and everything, and then over here it was just, you know, wide open. And they, what they believed and how they believed it was totally different. And I just kinda got, I got so confused with the whole situation. It’s all in the book I’m going to give you. I finally said, “I am going to…” And this was only later in life. “I’m gonna read the Bible for myself. I’m gonna to make my own. I’m gonna listen to… There’s certain people that I totally agree with that they tell me things about Scripture that I believe, things about prophecy I believe, but I’m going to fill in the gaps myself. I’m going to find out what it is.” And I have. I read the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, cover to cover several times. I do it. So I made my own decisions, you know, about what is what. And of course, I come to find out that there is no way that Allah and God and Jehovah could be the same God. There’s no way because the Muslims say God did not have a son. The first thing we found out in the New Testament is the whole thing is about God did have a son, and he’s still got a son. And you know, it’s like, there is no God but Jehovah. and the people who worship him are us and the Jews. The Jews are still waiting on Jesus. We’re not. We know he’s come. But I have always… That’s the one part of the Bible that I don’t quite grasp is the dispensation for the Jews because it says all of Israel will be saved. That’s God’s business. That’s not my business. I’m willing to let that go, you know, but I know there’s one God, and Allah is not God.
Andrew: It’s all a bit of God’s business, isn’t it? Like I think that’s why we can open up the Bible and discover, rather than be fearful of not interpreting it correctly or whatever, cause it’s God’s business.
Charlie: But when you come to something you don’t understand, I mean, you know, that you can’t quite get a grasp on like I was with that, you know, I think the best thing to do is turn it loose and leave it up him. I’ll understand it better by and by.
“But when you come to something you don’t understand, that you can’t quite get a grasp on, …I think the best thing to do is turn it loose and leave it up him.” —Charlie Daniels
By and by, when the morning comes
Charlie: See there.
When all the saints of God are gathered home
We wilt tell the story of how we’ve overcome
We will understand it better by and by
Mark: See, same church songs.
Charlie: I know.
Andrew: See, and I knew that millennial.
Mark: Let me ask you this. When did Jesus become, I mean, have you… You were raised around it. Did he grab your attention early, or have you gotten to know him through the years? How has he become important to you?
Charlie: Always, I have always been a believer. I have all… One of the things I wanted to decide when I started reading the Bible was I’ve been told all my life that Jesus died for me. I acknowledged it, I believe it, that he was coming back again. I acknowledge it, I believe it, that he was God’s only son. I acknowledge it, I believe it. Now, why? Why did he have to die for me? What was the reason for that? That’s what I didn’t understand. And that’s what I was looking for. And that’s what I found. That’s what I was looking for by reading the Bible, by exhaustively reading the Bible. And the Old Testament, New Testament, the more you read it the more you realize it goes together. There is so much. You’d be reading one of the minor prophets, and all of a sudden, you go, “There’s Jesus right there.” You know, I mean, maybe just a couple of lines or something, you know, but it’d be in these prophecies. It’ll tell you about it. And you know, I wanted to know why. Why did he? And I’ve got my own way that I feel about why he did, why he had to die.
Mark: What do you think?
Charlie: He broke… There had never been… Adam was sinless. They took a bite out of that apple or cherry or peach or whatever it was. They probably don’t grow here anymore. I mean, if it was that simple, all he had to do to keep from sinning–
Mark: I wouldn’t wanna have it.
Charlie: Is stay away from that tree. I’d put a big fence around it. But you know, he was sinless, and then when he did that, and what he did was not actually eating the fruit. He was disobeying God. That, you know, God told him not to do that. Only thing he told them. You got all these trees out here. You got all this place. You got this beautiful lady that, you know, you’ll keep company with, and you got all these things, and, you know–
Mark: Isn’t that interesting?
Charlie: Just stay away from that tree right there. And he couldn’t do it. So sin entered into mankind. And when we were born into sin, the Bible tells us we’re born in sin. Jesus never sinned. He was born of woman.
Mark: He was born of woman.
Charlie: Not by man. He was born of woman. He was the only other sinless person who ever came along. And so far as… That broke the line of sin, right there.
Mark: Well, you know, it says that by one man… Sin all fell by one man, all are redeemed.
Charlie: He brought it in. One man took it out.
Charlie: But it’s like, you know, he shed the blood. There’s parts of it I still don’t understand. I take it on faith. But he broke the path of sin, which broke the devil’s back.
Charlie: He took the devil’s power away from him.
Charlie: And so he’s, it’s like all he asked you to do is the hardest thing going, but you read in the Bible when you get to Romans, it says confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead and you will be saved. It don’t go into all these little theological things that a lot of people put in there. That’s the first. That’s the starting thing. If you do that, you’re going to want to try to live right. You’re going to want to… You’re going to want to… You ever stop and think about, and I do sometimes, about what you might want to be like to have a nail driven right through your hand right there, and the only way you can breathe as to push up the nails on your feet, and at any time… And I keep thinking, my gosh, if that had been me, I’d have had them angels down here just doing away with everybody, you know. I mean, but yet he hung there for, I think, six hours or something like that.
Mark: What if that would have been your son on that cross?
Charlie: I just can’t, you know, I can’t imagine.
Mark: What kind of love.
Charlie: But he broke it. He broke that chain. He broke that power and gets us all a chance to, you know, to live for him.
Mark: Can I ask one more question about all the cussing in your songs?
Andrew: You can, and then I’m going to take it somewhere else.
Charlie: I’ve had about all the millennial questions I can take anyway.
Andrew: You haven’t even had one yet.
Mark: My mother Beverly, would like to ask a question. My mother, when she died, she didn’t go to heaven. She jumped in me, and every now and then, she’ll come out and ask you a question that sounds so much like her. Like when I was listening to some of your songs, there’s… You know, my dad, who has actually been to prison, he’s one of the best men I’ve ever known, but he made a mistake, went to prison ’76, and I’m thinking, he’s been to prison. But if you were to say, you know, S, the S-word in front of him.
Andrew: What word is that?
Mark: I can’t say it. We’re on film. But he, oh, you’d think… Okay, so have you… Do you have any problem with that, with all that cussing you do in your songs?
Charlie: I don’t cuss anymore.
Charlie: I cut all the cussing out now.
Mark: You really did?
Charlie: I did, yeah.
Mark: Now, why?
Charlie: Well, because I just feel like, you know, the song says the same thing without it.
Mark: Yeah. I really was expecting a funnier answer. I didn’t mean to condemn you or anything.
Charlie: Not at all.
Andrew: It’s actually a thoughtful answer, that it says everything without–
Mark: It is a great answer.
Charlie: The song says the same thing without it, and I just got to thinking that I don’t need it. You know, I don’t need that in there. I mean, I don’t think you’re going to go to hell for saying a cuss word by any means. I don’t mean that. My pastor says that if, you know… We don’t like that kinda talk, but if I hit my finger with a hammer, you better watch out. So I mean, it’s in all of us. I don’t think… I think we… That’s one of the problems with some of the denominations that, and I’m not trying to offend anybody or anything, that they chased their young people off when they get to be old enough to leave because everything is a sin. Everything is a sin. I mean, everything’s a sin except breathing, and if you breathe through your mouth, it’s a sin. And that was, that was one of the things with the church that I went to when I was young. I went from Methodist over here, and everything was a sin. You gotta wear your hair a certain way. You could not go to movies. You couldn’t smoke cigarettes, which is a good thing probably. I didn’t do me any good. I smoked them anyway, but I quit 30 years, no, 50 years ago.
Mark: So how did you get from the Pentecostal church, you must have been there a while, to the country singing?
Charlie: Basically, I just kinda… After I went to a Pentecostal church for a while, though I did not quit believing in all the things that go along with that, but I did get away from any kind of organized religion for a good while. And all I ever wanted to do, once I learned three chords on a guitar and learned to play a whole song, that’s all I ever wanted to do. I wanted do nothing else. I cared nothing about doing anything else. I didn’t wanna… I did other things because making a living as a musician in my part of the country was almost impossible at the time, but that was the desire of my heart. I worked daytime jobs for a good little while and got the chance to go play music for a living, so I’ve been doing it for 60 years now.
Andrew: In 60 years, I mean, you’re not only a veteran in music, you’re also 82-years-old.
Charlie: I’m 82.
Andrew: So you’re a veteran of life. And the past few years, I’ve noticed that you share a lot of your wisdom. I mean, you’ve already shared a lot of that wisdom with us now and experience in life, through your social media, which is, that’s speaking to millennials, right, that you’re offering this advice. Do you feel, kind of at this stage and place of your life, do you feel a certain responsibility to share what you’ve experienced with generations that come behind?
Charlie: I don’t know if I would call it responsibility or not. I don’t know if it goes that deep or not, but I feel like I should.
Charlie: There’s some things in my life I feel like I should do, and I just naturally… I get up every morning and pull up a Bible verse. I put up a let’s-all-make-a-day-count thing, which I feel like, some of them are just old sayings I’ve heard, but a lot of them I feel like the Lord sends them to me cause I never worry about them. I get up, I always come up with something, and I can’t do that myself, you know. So I put up a prayer every day and a couple of other things that I do. And that’s just my, that’s my morning thing. And I get feedback from that a lot of times, you know, from people that say the Bible verse was something they needed to hear that day or that prayer was up they needed to hear that day. And I mean, it’s not, I’m not a minister. I don’t mean that, but maybe that’s my ministry. Maybe this part of it.
Andrew: Well, you are someone who’s lived some life and experienced things. And I even look at the three of us around the table here. We’re stair-stepped, you know. We’ve got you at the top, and then we’ve got Mark, and then we’ve got me, but I often–
Charlie: Is he calling us old in a millennial sort of a way?
Mark: You know what? When we get to heaven, let’s go black jack his mansion.
Charlie: No, I’ll tell you. As soon as you turn the cameras off, then let’s just beat him up.
Mark: Yeah, show him who’s old.
Andrew: No, but film it, film it. But I felt like, I love… And Mark, I think I can speak for you, and Charlie, I think, you know, I was telling you that story about my friend’s 6-year-old at the concert last night, who went home and his whole takeaway was Charlie. “I love Charlie. I love Charlie.” Music has a multigenerational aspect to it. You’ve always been friends with people older and younger. I’ve always been friends with people older and younger and found it very valuable. Do you think that kind of multigenerational relationship, like living life side-by-side as people of different ages, different generations, with different opinions and perspectives on things, is an important, like, should we coexist?
Charlie: I think so. I think people… I have friends that are all different ages. I come from a blue-collar background, and I tend to hang around with blue-collar people, you know. I like the cowboys and the mechanics, you know, and that sort of thing. I mean, as far as who I actually really enjoy spending time with, because we talk about the same things. I love to talk about horses and football and, you know, that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t fit in the board room very well. But yeah, I got friends who are young. Of course, we play, we don’t have the concentration of teenagers like we used to have back in our younger days, but we still have quite a few young kids. And the little kids, like the one you we’re talking about that was at a concert, we have a couple of songs, like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” like “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” that sort of thing, and so the little kids, that’s a real… You made my day by telling me the story about the kid cause that’s the… If you can reach them, you know, if you can touch them, the little kids…
Mark: At 82. Think about that.
Charlie: If you can touch them, then you’re still kind of cooking along.
Andrew: Yeah. Well, you’ve opened up conversation, right? Even just through music. In fact, I think it was Roger and I that we’re talking about, Roger that works with you, about why is it that I think his 6-year-old or 7-year-old granddaughter had a similar experience after being at a festival and rodeos and all this kind of fun stuff happening. And he said at the end of the trip, “What did you like the most?” And she said, “Charlie.” And I think music’s a part of that, but isn’t there something… It’s important that we not lose touch with every age. I mean, don’t you think there’s still a part of you that’s 6-years-old?
Charlie: I hope so. I hope so. I truly hope so. I hope I never… I hope part of me never grows up. I think when you do, I think you lose something. I think that you see people sometimes, they’re hard. I mean, they don’t have any affinity for what we’re talking about. It’s just not part of their life, and it don’t happen in their life. I never want to get that way. I never want to get to where I can’t get a thrill out of picking up a baby.
Mark: Oh, yes.
Charlie: I love children.
Mark: I do too.
Charlie: I love kids. And you know, somebody walks in with a baby, I got to hold him.
Mark: I know, and it’s kind of creepy. This day and age, they go, you know, you go… Back in my day, everybody’s throwing babies around, and now you gotta be careful.
Charlie: Well, you know, I never want to lose that thing of being able to, you know, be around little kids and enjoy being with them. I didn’t want to lose that. I think you’re losing a very important part of yourself if you get to where you don’t enjoy that sort of thing.
Andrew: Well, and talk about the discovery of God. Don’t you think kids, or I… My experience with kids seems to be a very pure… There’s pure motivation in their perspectives and the… I mean, they still have humanity in them, right? They’re still manipulating their parents and controlling the situation. But it seems like they’re a little closer to God in some ways.
Charlie: Well, Jesus said the kingdom belonged to such as these, to the little children, because they have no problem believing. They don’t rationalize anything. They just believe it. You know, daddy’s the greatest man in the world. You know, my daddy just, he is the best. He can drive a nail. He can saw a board. He can ride a horse. He can do all kinds of stuff. He’s the greatest man in the world, my daddy is. You know, that kind of faith, that kind of–
Mark: They have nothing to unlearn.
Charlie: No, that kind of thing about, you know, and prejudice, you know, racial prejudice.
Mark: That’s a learned thing.
Charlie: That is a learned thing, and nobody is born, nobody is born, with prejudice toward anybody.
Mark: Now you come from a very prejudicial background, and I did too. How did you shuck that?
Charlie: When I grew up to the point that… That is a social thing. That is a social thing. You are raised in a world where everybody, every white person, figure they’re better than Black people are. They figure that there’s a difference. There’s some kind of biological difference, you know. And you come up with that in your face all the time. See, everything I went to was segregated. I never went to school with a Black person. I never went to a movie with a Black person. I never… Every restaurant I ever, it was all segregated. When I got up and got away from home and started, got away from that particular set of friends and things, and started thinking for myself, it’s like, this is silly. I mean, we’re talking about other human beings that are the same thing we are, except they’re just a different color.
Mark: They all bleed red.
Charlie: What’s so special about us? You know, why are we… Why would God make them if they’re that way, if they’re inferior? You get to figure it out, and it finally dawns on you after a while. And it’s a pretty sobering thing. It’s something that you really fight with.
Mark: Don’t you think getting outside of your little petri dish of Kentucky and seeing the wider world though has helped?
Charlie: Oh, definitely. Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. I mean, you go out and… But getting closer… But you know, one of the things too is when you’re brought up in that particular… I’m talking about 70, 80 years ago when things were really, you know, really segregated, before when all the Jim Crow laws were in fact, you had no reason to associate with people of color.
Mark: Cause everything was separate.
Charlie: And they were as standoffish about associating with you as you were with them. You had two different reasons. Yours was prejudice, just pure racial prejudice. Theirs was fear.
Mark: Of course.
Charlie: You know, theirs was a fear that maybe there was a certain line… So you never really got a chance to really get to be, you know, know somebody.
Andrew: Isn’t prejudice fear too, like in a different…?
Charlie: It is. It’s definitely, it’s definitely, you just hit the nail on the head. It is. Most people that are would never admit it to you, but it is. It definitely is. But the thing about it is is once you get away and you start thinking about, it’s silly. It’s just down right silly.
Mark: If they would just look at the children, cause the children of the whites and the Blacks will mix until they’re taught not to, right? Even back then.
Charlie: Exactly, it would. But you never get very close to somebody of color, basically.
Mark: Back then.
Charlie: And you finally get out and you start getting around people, and you start to think, what is this? Why?
Andrew: Do you remember when that, kind of like a light bulb?
Charlie: It’s not like a light thing. It was kind of like my salvation. It didn’t just… You know, I kept waiting for a Damascus Road experience. I always wanted to get knocked off my horse. I wasn’t too crazy about the blind part.
Mark: You want to hit the ground.
Charlie: You know, and it’s like it just never happened that way with me. It’s an awakening. And sometimes some people I guess have an immediate awakening, and some people it just takes… It’s kind of a slow awakening, but it’s just been a gradual thing with me with I believe this. I believe this. I’ve got this far. You know, you just kinda keep going like that. But it was the same way with coming out of that period of my life. It was not a, you know, a quick think. It was just like… In fact, you fight it to start with because it’s been so ingrained in your mind. You catch yourself thinking that way and say, “Wait a minute,” you know? But then it just keeps dawning on you and dawning on you, and you kind of grow along with it, you know? And you finally come to the conclusion. It’s like, this is it. I mean, if I use one word to describe the state of racial prejudice when I was a child, when I was raised, I would say it was silly. And what I’m talking about, you had people that were filled with the Holy Spirit in churches, and they were still prejudice.
Mark: Yeah. How’s that happen?
Charlie: I don’t know. And as I look back on it–
Mark: That just proves the Holy Spirit doesn’t really have many standards. He’ll go anywhere.
Charlie: Watch yourself now.
Mark: I mean, I love that about him. He includes me then.
Charlie: When I look back on it, you know, it’s like, it’s hard. That’s one of the hard things for me to explain. I mean, there was people that would just, I mean, they would… Like you said your daddy was about the cuss words. Oh, you didn’t do that. You need to do this.
Andrew: There was no explanation of why or the thought process.
Charlie: But as far as, you know, they had this prejudice thing. And that’s the thing I do not understand.
Andrew: Country music is a predominantly white audience even still, so is there ways that you incorporate your belief system, especially into–
Mark: Oh, into your music and your concerts?
Andrew: Yeah, because I would say probably your audiences, who are showing up to concerts at least, are predominantly Caucasian.
Charlie: Most of them. Yeah, most of them are. I don’t really, you know, the thing about it is what you find in that particular way is not so much has so much to do with the philosophical part of what we’re taking about. It has to do with the kind of music people want.
Charlie: And you know, that people show up at the kind of music they like. But we have some people of color sometimes they come to our concerts.
Andrew: Is there a way though that you’re able to even… Cause I agree with you on that. It’s based on just tastes, influence, et cetera, of them showing up. But there are probably plenty of people in your audience anywhere who still have some of that racial prejudice still within them. Do you find… And maybe you don’t feel responsible–
Mark: Any way to chip away at it?
Charlie: I don’t really get involved. I see we’re talking politics now, and I don’t do politics on stage.
Mark: I don’t either.
Charlie: I mean, if you read my… You say you read my social media, I give them a fit on that.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah.
Charlie: But I don’t do politics on stage. I figure people spend their hard earned money to come see me play and want entertainment.
“But I don’t do politics on stage. I figure people spend their hard earned money to come see me play and want entertainment.” —Charlie Daniels
Mark: I agree.
Charlie: So that’s what I do on stage.
Andrew: Which creates a safe space.
Charlie: Now this, I’ll talk to you about it all day long if we’re doing something like this, but I just don’t do it on stage. I don’t think that’s a place for it.
Mark: I agree.
Charlie: And so I don’t. I couldn’t really say that I consciously did that. Now if somebody asked me a question about it, I’ll be glad to answer them. But you know, I just think it’s time… They come to hear “Wooley Swamp”
Andrew: Yeah. And that’s kind of honoring of the music, and it keeps music a safe place, you know. But you’re also talking about holding your tongue a little bit. I’ve heard you, I’ve read and heard you talk about the value of holding your tongue, which you’re a talker. You’re willing to speak your opinion and perspective when asked and stuff. But it seems that you also understand the value of holding your tongue. How do you discern when to speak out and when to maybe shut up?
Charlie: Well, I think it depends on what you’re talking about and how you feel. You know, it took me a long time to figure out what pearls before swine is. I mean, you stop–
Mark: Do not throw your pearls before a swine.
Charlie: There’s probably a thousand different interpretations of that in people’s minds, but to me, it means, you know, why are you even talking to this person? I get people on social media sometimes that tell you what an idiot you are. They can’t tell you why, but they can always tell you what an idiot you are. And I first, when I started, I started trying to explain things to people. I come to find out there’s no explaining to these people because they don’t go into a conversation being willing to see both sides of it. If you can’t see both sides of a conversation, it’s like throwing your pearls to swine. If you’re unwilling, if me and you are sitting here and we’re arguing about something and we’re willing to say, you know, that you’re willing to accept my part of it and at least let me explain it to you and I’m the same way with you, then we got something going. If you’re implacable and totally reject everything that I’ve got to say and I feel the same way about you, you know, you wouldn’t throw me your pearls, I wouldn’t throw you my pearls. So sometimes it’s just better to hold your chumps. People learn stuff better by beating their own head against a wall. You know? I mean, I beat my head against the wall. It’s a wonder I got a hair left on my head. I don’t have many. But that’s how I learned, mostly, was the hard way. I mean, learning the hard way. And most people, there’s a lot of people that are that way. Some people can learn lessons the easy way. I never have been able to. I’ve always had to get out and live it. And you know, once I lived it, once I learned it, I got it though.
“I beat my head against the wall. It’s a wonder I got a hair left on my head. I don’t have many. But that’s how I learned, mostly, was the hard way.” —Charlie Daniels
Andrew: Yeah. Well, and then you have something to share too.
Charlie: I ain’t gonna put my finger in the same fire every time, you know.
Mark: That plays out in your songs, too, I would think.
Charlie: Oh, it does, yeah. Lessons learned.
Mark: I love the story I heard from a lady last night at the Michael W. Smith event when you were up there singing, and evidently, she was at your Christmas party. And she said, she said, “Charlie has a Christmas party. And anybody…” You know, like people come and there’s a gay couple that comes. There’s a… I don’t know.
Charlie: Mixed race couple.
Mark: Mixed race couple. I mean, you just throw your doors open. How did that happen?
Charlie: It’s not like that. We kind of take in the strays basically. But we started out with every Christmas Eve we’d have some friends that would come by, and then we started inviting different people. You know, it’s sad to me to think about being by yourself at Christmastime.
Mark: Oh, me too, yeah.
Charlie: I’m never by myself. I’m always with, you know, with my people that have been with me… For a lot of people that work for me, have been with me… They’re like my family.
Mark: And your wife has been with you for 55 years.
Charlie: Yeah, 55 in September, you know. And I’m always with somebody. To stop and think about somebody being by themselves at Christmastime and going Christmas to McDonald’s, Christmas Eve night, if they can find one open, is a sad sort of thing. And so we started, if we run across somebody like that, we’d say, you know… Maybe it’d be somebody working in a band that was knew that couldn’t go home or something, and we’d have them out. But we started having people out, and it turned into about 30 people usually that come out. And it just happened that a lot of these people are just, you know, people you learn that you pick up and everything, and you’re welcome at Charlie’s house on Christmas Eve night. And you’re gonna have to listen to the Bible be read, listen to me say a prayer, but if you’re willing to put up with that.
Andrew: Well, that’s cool. That’s different walks of life.
Mark: I just love that because the image I had of him, right? I didn’t know Charlie Daniels till today.
Charlie: He thought I was gonna hit him when he walked in.
Mark: No, I did not. I mean, the image is the sunglasses. I mean, honestly, Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels, that same kind of… That’s what’s in my mind cause the music, and then I get here and the man’s a reader and a Bible scholar and loves the Lord. And I’m not saying you can’t, I mean… What am I saying?
Andrew: You just had a different idea.
Mark: Yeah, and I like you a lot.
Charlie: I like you a lot too. You’re a good fellow.
Mark: You are too. You remind me so much of my buddy JD, but you’re like an educated–
Andrew: A nice one.
Mark: Oh, JD was phenomenal.
Charlie: You know who I met last night? It was one of the Goodman boys.
Charlie: He looked just like his daddy. It was freaky. He walked into the dressing room, and wow, Howard, you look so young. He just looked like him.
Mark: Did you know Howard and Vestal?
Charlie: I didn’t really. I got to sing with Vestal one time on a… They put a bunch of us together on an awards show or something, and I got to sing with her. But I never really got to know her. I got to, I got to be around her a little bit.
Mark: She’d love you.
Charlie: Oh, she could… This woman had a voice on her. Wow, she was just something else. That’s one thing I said when we got through. I said, “I got to sing with Vestal Goodman.”
Mark: Isn’t that something? Yeah, she was, oh, that voice is like a tone.
Charlie: Well, she was training for the opera, wasn’t she?
Mark: Well, that’s what I heard.
Charlie: I heard her say one time she had intended to go to the opera stage.
Mark: Isn’t that interesting cause I would think that is such a different voice in the opera, so she must’ve been able to do the big head tone too.
Andrew: She had the control though.
Charlie: I think she could do anything with her voice she wanted to, just about it. It was amazing. Some people just have a little golden sort of thing, you know, that their voice when it comes out. I sound like a fog horn.
Andrew: Yeah, but the 6-year-olds.
Charlie: I feel like a fog horn blowing in different keys.
Mark: You’re an entertainer.
Andrew: Hey fog horn, I got one more question for you.
Andrew: Okay. So here’s a little quote of yours. “I speak from experience and paid a price for my repentance.”
Andrew: Is there an experience or a season of experiences that you look back and you think, either with regret or just that cost me something, you know?
Charlie: Well, if you tend to dwell on mistakes, if you tend to dwell on that sort of, yeah, there would be, but what I’ve found… And I have done that. I mean, I’ve sat around and, you know, thought about things that I wish I hadn’t have done or things I wish I had done or something like that. But that’s just about a waste of time when you get right down to it. I’m not a what-if-er, you know. Stop and think, well, what if I had not come to Nashville when I had a chance. You know, I don’t think about stuff like that cause it doesn’t make any difference. I did come. And you can sit around and what-if yourself into an early grave, or you can worry yourself to death about stuff you can’t go back. And you know, that’s the thing that took me so long to learn about Jesus Christ and what the wondrous thing that he’d done about forgiving our sins. You know, it’s like if you carry that around with you, which I did for many, many years. We all do, until you find out what to do with it. You know, if you carry that around with you, it will kill you. I mean, it will literally make an old person out of you because you’ve got that on you. And it’s like that’s what he said. Give it to me. I’ll do away with it. You won’t ever see it again, and I won’t ever think about it again. You know, it’s all gone.
Mark: Can’t beat that, can you?
Charlie: And you know, till you get to that point though, the things you’re talking about, yeah, you could definitely. I have paid some price. I look at it as lessons learned. I try to learn lessons from things that happen. I cut a finger off on a rip saw, so I don’t do rip saws anymore. You know, I broke my arm on a post hole digger. I’m don’t do post hole diggers anymore. I mean, I’m being a little–
Mark: You really did?
Charlie: Yeah, I did, man.
Mark: You don’t be messing with them picking fingers.
Charlie: Man, I didn’t want to. I cut this off in high school
Mark: That was a long time ago.
Charlie: So I pick with these two fingers, so it don’t make no difference. That’s just superfluous. At least that’s what I tell myself anyway.
Andrew: Yeah, as long as I keep the middle one.
Charlie: Yeah, you gotta learn some… Of course, that’s pretty drastic, those kinds of lessons, you know.
Andrew: And those are physical lessons.
Charlie: You learn about, you know, like I said, I’ll never stick my finger in that fire again, you know. I ain’t going to fool with no more post hole diggers, no more rip saws. I ain’t got to be… I’m not good with machinery.
Mark: I’m not either. What are you doing with any of that anyway?
Andrew: Especially as a picker.
Mark: Don’t you have people to take care of that?
Charlie: I’m a rancher, man. We’re digging post holes.
Mark: I have people.
Andrew: That dig your post holes?
Charlie: I’m just not good around machinery. I really am not.
Mark: Well, then don’t do it.
Andrew: But you learned. You don’t anymore.
Charlie: This is good for me. I didn’t eat nothing. I need to do this every meal–
Andrew: You need to talk more.
Charlie: And I’d lose some weight.
Mark: I know. Well, you ate good.
Andrew: Oh yeah, I was fine listening.
Charlie: He’s a millennial. He can eat–
Mark: I know. I’m trying to pretend it, but I get so involved in the conversation.
Charlie: We have this old manners. We don’t eat while–
Mark: That’s right.
Charlie: Well, guys, it’s been fun.
Mark: I’ve loved it.
Charlie: Let’s do it again some time.
Mark: I would love to come talk to you sometimes about stuff.
Charlie: Let’s do it.
Mark: Like I used to with JD.
Charlie: JD Sumner, you’re talking about.
Mark: I miss him. Yeah. You know what? I really don’t miss him. Let me tell you. I said all to him I had to say. It was an amazing five years. When I first met him, first of all, we were at one of them singings with everybody sitting around. You’ve seen them. I’m over here, Homecoming, and I see George Younce and JD Sumner, the two old guys, over there, and I’m the young guy right at this time. And I see JD lean over and whisper something in George Younce’s ear, and then George dies laughing. And immediately, I said, “I’m going to know him.” I want to know funny people. I love funny people. And so, I asked him, his wife had died. I said, “You wanna go get breakfast?” And so we started having breakfast together. Well, we were in the car one day, and he says to me, “Well, if I get to heaven…” You know, he had that deep voice. He said, “If I get to heaven, it’d be by the skin of my teeth.” And Beverly rared up. It’s my mother. And I said, “JD, ain’t nobody getting in there by the skin of their teeth.” I said, “It’s the blood of Jesus that’ll get us in.” He said, “Well, I was raised Church of God where if your hair touched your ears you’re going to hell, you know.” And I said, “Well, let’s go study it together.” So I got The Grace Awakening. You remember? You remember that, when hair… 1 Corinthians 11:14 “Doth not even nature itself teach you it’s a shame for a man to have long hair.” We had that one memorized with John 3:16 back in my day. You know, that was a big deal, anyway. So we started studying grace together. And I would read this book, and then I’d go over to his house at night and we’d discuss, you know, just talk about it. I’d try to get it down, you know, to… He had an eighth grade education I think. And so we would just, and then he would take these thoughts and mull them over and regurgitate them down to a third. I mean, just, he would come up with some nugget that you really got it, you know, the grace of God. I mean, that was really a… Becoming a recovering fundamentalist has been my next step. I was born again in the Baptist church, but I have really become… I found out, like I said, Jesus is a lot nicer than they told me.
Charlie: Is the camera off?
Andrew: What are you about to say?
Charlie: We just lost the Baptist audience.
Mark: No, they know me.
Charlie: I don’t care.
Mark: They know how I think.
Charlie: The hardest… I wrote a chapter on my salvation. It was the hardest in the book I’m going to give you. It was the hardest chapter for me to write.
Charlie: I knew what I wanted to say, but I wanted to make sure that everybody else knew what I was saying. And I really labored over it. And I really thought about it and put a lot of thought into it and everything. And I think I’ve, I think I’ve got it pretty much nailed as far as the way that I feel about things. And one of the things that I addressed, which was like, you know, if drinking wine is bad, why did Jesus take perfectly good water and make wine out of it?
Mark: Good question.
Charlie: You know, and that’s what you get to thinking about when you’re… Those kinds of questions, these little theological questions, I mean, that one is just one.
Mark: And if you couldn’t be drunk with wine, why would he say don’t be?
Charlie: Why? Yeah. Why is it wrong for women to cut their hair? Why? Show me in the New Testament. Show me the New Testament where it’s wrong. You know, why? You know, these… I wrote a song some years ago called “The New Pharisees.” And it’s like, you know–
Mark: Do you remember the lyric?
Charlie: I can’t remember exactly. It’s been a long time ago, but I did, I remember doing it. It’s like, it’s about everything, everything is a sin. Everything is a sin. Well, why? It’s all this superficial stuff. It’s what you’re supposed to be getting past. It’s what’s here.
Charlie: It’s not like, you know, what your face looks like or your hair looks like. What I see here with humanity, they got everything but a bone in their nose, but they’re sold out Christians and love the Lord.
Mark: Yes, I know.
Charlie: I mean, you mean to tell me just because a kid has earrings and long hair–
Andrew: Yeah, their physical appearance.
Charlie: And the stuff that he can’t be a Christian? I don’t see any place in the Bible that says that.
Mark: That’s what happened, I mean, by getting out of your petri dish.
Charlie: That’s what I’m talking about. It’s like everything… And, you know, they run the young people off.
Andrew: Well, it’s human control. It’s literally just a–
Charlie: It’s Pharisee-ism. It’s exactly what it is. It’s Pharisee-ism.
Andrew: What’s the purpose of it is what I’ve always wondered.
Mark: It’s control. Everybody has to look alike.
Charlie: You’re exactly right.
Andrew: But why? Then I would say but why?
Mark: I don’t know. That’s the problem–
Andrew: That’s the problem. There is no–
Charlie: And I like happy people, you know. I don’t want somebody with one of these.
Mark: Where’s the joy of the Lord?
Charlie: If you can’t find it, if you ain’t happy about it, why are you doing it? I mean, you ain’t gonna be happy here, you ain’t going to be happy there.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s why I drink.
Mark: He’s Presbyterian.
Charlie: Oh, that explains it. That explains a lot.
Andrew: Ding, ding, ding.
Charlie: I went to a Presbyterian church. I went to all kinds of churches. I went to, I mean, I went to all kinds. But then there is an elitism in that particular thing.
Mark: There’s a what?
Charlie: An elitism.
Andrew: It’s kind of an academic faith.
Mark: In the Pentecostal or Presbyterian church?
Charlie: In the Pentecostal church, or used to be. I don’t know if he’s still there or not because I ain’t been to one real heavy duty one–
Andrew: Oh, in the Pentecostal?
Charlie: In the Pentecostal church, yes. If you don’t do it like we do it, you ain’t saved.
Mark: I think that’s mellowing.
Charlie: I hope so.
Mark: I really… I see that the ones that… Like I mean, I see a lot of younger people that are in love with Jesus and they’re letting go of that stuff, which I had to too. When I learned that it was okay–
Charlie: But you know what I’m talking about?
Mark: Yeah, for a woman to wear pants or… When I learned that, it was like removing a cornerstone from my life. So I’ve now deduced it all down to one cornerstone, and that’s Jesus. And if we could teach the kids that, then they wouldn’t have to grow up–
Andrew: I think they intuitively know it.
Mark: Remove all that other crap.
Andrew: That Jesus, that’s the end all be all. I think they intuitively know it, which is why they don’t care about having a tattoo and why they don’t care about… Like they don’t… I don’t think intuitively they think that is somehow a detractor from them being a complete disciple of Jesus.
Charlie: Well, a church I went to, there’s people there that will tell you that church over there’s not going to heaven. They don’t shout. They don’t do this. They don’t do that. You know, and it’s like–
Mark: I don’t hear that much–
Charlie: I could understand… That’s what gets so confusing after awhile, you know? It’s like–
Andrew: Cause then it’s like which one is it?
Mark: Well, that’s why you had to go find it out for yourself.
Charlie: Yeah, yeah, work it out.
Andrew: Now you can come to the Charlie Daniels church every Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m.
Mark: “Every head bowed, every eye closed. I’m Jerry Falwell. If you will help me build Liberty Mountain, I’ll send you Macel and the kids. 1-800-SEND-CASH.”
Charlie Daniels performing “How Great Thou Art”
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, oh my God, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, ohh, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
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