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Charlie Daniels still fiddlin’ hot

Features Column

T. Gamble

T. Gamble

This past weekend, I went to Wild Adventures with the wife, 8-year-old Hurricane boy and 9-year-old Princess.

I have no business at a place named Wild Adventures. I once was the king of wild adventures, but these days making it to the bathroom on time after eating a raw peach is considered a wild adventure.

The kids want to ride everything known to man and think I should, too. In past visits, I’ve ridden them all. Thankfully, I resisted most of their calls to join the riding this time. It is just as well as I really came to the park to see the Charlie Daniels concert that night.

I first saw Charlie Daniels in ‘75 at Grant Field in Atlanta and he looked 75 back then. I had no idea what to expect. Perhaps he’d come out in a wheelchair. Who knows?

To my surprise he looked better now than he did in ‘75. Maybe that is because he takes better care of himself now or maybe it is because this time I had not consumed a quart of vodka by the time he took the stage.

The kids love Charlie because I have a greatest hits tape of him and they, of course, love “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and the Wooly Swamp song. They are not my favorites, but just right for a kid’s imagination.

I looked it up and found out Charlie is now 76 years old but you could not tell it by watching him sing and play. He still doesn’t look a day over 90. Charlie sung a lot of his biggest hits in a voice better than the original version. Then he did some instrumentals, a tribute to his deceased friend (the description deceased could probably apply to most of his friends these days) Johnny Cash and a patriotic theme for our combat troops. Each one better than the one before.

After all this, Charlie then sang an absolutely stirring rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” I must admit I did not expect to hear Charlie Daniels sing a religious song at a concert. I was almost shocked — not as shocked as, say, if I went to a Metallica concert and they sang a religious song — but surprised nonetheless.

Charlie first gained fame singing about the South doing it again and “Long Haired Country Boy,” which basically said, if one can sum up a song in a nutshell, leave me alone while I smoke dope. He was one of the original country rock acts and had a pretty wild reputation. But I’ve read a few things over the years where Charlie talked about regretting some of the messages his early songs might send to kids, although I doubt he regrets the few million dollars they earned him. I also read where he has a very strong faith these days, so maybe I should not have been surprised.

It was refreshing to see a quality act unafraid to sing with conviction about his faith. Too often these days entertainers shy away from such things, afraid of the backlash or that they will appear uncool. I guess when you are 77 and still going strong, you don’t have to worry about being cool and backlash doesn’t mean much either.

I seem to recall Elvis did not mind throwing in a gospel song or two when he gave a concert. Now, I know Elvis and Charlie and a lot of other entertainers still do, or did, some things that would not make the Good Book proud. Guess what? That’s what makes them human.

Still, all in all, they let you know where they stand in the grand scheme of things and I’m all right with that.

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.