Country music legend Charlie Daniels dies at age 83

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Country music legend Charlie Daniels dies at age 83

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Charlie Daniels, who went from being an in-demand session musician to a staple of Southern rock with his hit "Devil Went Down to Georgia," has died at 83.

A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died Monday at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after doctors said he had a stroke.   He had suffered what was described as a mild stroke in January 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013 but continued to perform.

Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.  "I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,' I can say I've played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,' I can say I've played there. There's not a city we haven't played in," Daniels said in 1998.

Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.

He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie "Urban Cowboy" and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. Some of his other hits were "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye," "Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues" and "Uneasy Rider."  "I've kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll," Daniels said in 1998. That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.

He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and his son, Charlie Daniels Jr.

"There are few artists that touched so many different generations in our business than Charlie Daniels did," said Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, in a statement. "Today, our community has lost an innovator and advocate of Country Music. Both Charlie and Hazel had become dear friends of mine over the last several years, and I was privileged to be able to celebrate Charlie's induction into the Opry as well as tell him that he was going to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame."
"Well, the devil went down to Georgia, but Charlie went straight to heaven," said Dolly Parton in a tweet. "My heart, like many millions of others, is broken today to find out that we've lost our dear friend Charlie Daniels."

Contemporary country artists like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean also paid tribute to Daniels on social media. "What a hero. A true patriot, Christian, and country music icon. Prayers to his family," said Bryan in a tweet.  "Charlie Daniels embodied the fire of the South," said Ronnie Milsap in a statement. "He blurred lines between rock and country, when rock didn't think country was cool, and his Volunteer Jams weren't just legendary, they brought people from both of those worlds together."

He hosted regular Volunteer Jam concerts in Nashville in which the performers usually were not announced in advance. Entertainers at these shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman.  "Charlie Daniels embodied the fire of the South," said Ronnie Milsap in a statement. "He blurred lines between rock and country, when rock didn't think country was cool, and his Volunteer Jams weren't just legendary, they brought people from both of those worlds together."

Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including "New Morning" and "Self-Portrait." He also played on albums by Marty Robbins, Claude King, Flatt & Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper and Ringo Starr.  He also performed gospel music, which earned him Dove Awards as well. He co-founded a veterans charity called The Journey Home Project.

Eventually, at the age of 71, he was invited to join the epitome of Nashville's music establishment, the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

 

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