Charlie Daniels coming home for Down South Music Festival

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Charlie Daniels might be best-known as the fiddle-playing, long-hair-having country boy whose songs are about betting the devil, getting in bar fights and smoking things other than cigarettes. But on the phone, he's as polite as can be.

The country music legend was raised in tiny Gulf and said he spent many a Saturday at Sanford's WWGP radio station as a young performer trying to turn people on to his sound. He now lives in Tennessee, but he's due for a homecoming this August during the Down South Music Festival at the Lions Club Fairgrounds in Sanford. The 76-year-old Daniels, a Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry inductee, will take the stage Aug. 17 with his band for the concert — proceeds from which will benefit Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County, which runs the county's largest food bank.

"That's my old stopping ground, 'round in there," Daniels said in a phone interview, adding that he's excited to be coming back. He graduated from the now-demolished Goldston High School in 1955 and left for the bright lights of Nashville in 1958, but he said he still has some friends living in the area that he hopes to see, since he doesn't get back to Chatham County much.

Daniels said the audience who comes out for the Down South Music Festival — tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door — will be in for a mix of standards and surprises.

"We do what people expect us to do," he said. "We do 'Devil Went Down to Georgia' and 'Long Haired Country Boy' and those things people expect, but we try to mix it up a little, too. Throw some surprises in there."

Those surprises might get eclectic, too, since although Daniels got his start as a country and folk music studio musician — playing bass for Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, co-writing at least one song for Elvis, and playing fiddle for The Marshall Tucker Band and Hank Williams Jr. — he said he now listens to everything from jazz to classical music, rock, gospel and more.

"Music is an enjoyable thing," Daniels said. "I don't see putting restrictions on it or blinders on it."

One thing he doesn't always enjoy listening to, though, is modern country — he said he often can't tell one singer or band from another, and that being able to fit into tight jeans often seems to be held in higher esteem than anything else.

"It's almost disposable, like a temporary kind of thing," he said when asked how country music is now compared to when he was getting his start in the 60s and 70s. "The kids that come along nowadays are very talented, but they're never left to their own devices. They're just made to do what the record companies want them to do."

When The Charlie Daniels Band hits the stage for August's festival, they'll also be joined by some local acts. However, their websites promote them as anything but the cookie-cutter country pop stars Daniels bemoaned. Raleigh-based Jim Quick and Coastline claim to combine comedy with country, blues, soul, southern rock and jazz, and Crush, also out of Raleigh, has Nashville roots but sticks to covers of classic rock, funk and modern hits. Sanford-based Huckleberry Blue covers country hits.

The show will start at 5:45 p.m. (gates open at 4 p.m.) and is expected to raise $10,000 to $20,000 for CUOC, which donates about 48,000 pounds of food to needy families in the area every month.

"What a great way to bring out the community to help," Teresa Kelly, executive director of CUOC, told The Herald in May. "It's a great night of fun and fellowship, and a great way to give back to the community and those less fortunate."

The concert is being organized by Lights on Broadway, a group of Broadway residents who created a festival after the April 2011 tornado ravaged the area. Michelle Hunt, president of the group, previously told The Herald she's excited for both the music and the cause.

"We hope people come out and support this great event," Hunt said. "Come out and see a legend."


WHAT: Down South Music Festival.

WHO: The Charlie Daniels Band, Huckleberry Blue, Jim Quick and Coastline, and Crush.

WHEN: Starts at 5:45 p.m., Aug. 17. Gates open at 4 p.m.

WHERE: Lions Club Fairgrounds in Sanford.

TICKETS: $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Proceeds benefit CUOC.