'He's Charles when he comes home'

Charlie Daniels headlines Down South Music Festival
Aug. 17, 2013 @ 08:12 PM

A country music and southern rock legend returned to his roots Saturday night to the delight of his fans and long-time friends.

Charlie Daniels, of the Charlie Daniels Band and former Gulf resident, headlined the Down South Music Festival and met with former friends and coworkers throughout the weekend visit.

Russell Palmer, who taught Daniels how to play the fiddle and guitar, was excited to see the singer return to area and intended to reminisce with his childhood friend.

“We were in the Misty Mountain Boys together,” Palmer said. “We had a real big time. He started pestering people to let us play.”

Palmer learned to play the fiddle through “trail and error” on his great-uncle’s instrument and joked that Daniels gave Palmer the credit for teaching him to play. When Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, Palmer was invited to perform with Daniels.

“It was an experience,” he said. “I really enjoyed it being able to play and I am glad that he is home. It’s really great he’s back and playing a concert here.”

At a luncheon for the Charlie Daniels Band at The Steele Pig, owner Chad Blackwelder said he’s a big fan of the band and glad to have the opportunity to feed the musicians.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I remember listening to eight-tracks with my father. It’s great to have him in town.”

Tim Currin worked with Daniels back in the mid-1950s and remembers watching him perform when there was only a handful of audience members.

“Oh boy, he was a nice young man,” Currin said. “When he was getting started I attended a show with only 15 people in the audience. I remember he came in the next day and said, ‘Maybe they’ll be there the next night.’”

More than 3,500 tickets were sold in advance of Saturday’s festival.

“It makes you feel good,” Currin said. “I always said he’d make it big and he did.”

Huckleberry Blue, Jim Quick and the Coastline Band and Crush are scheduled to open before Daniels and the proceeds from the event are set to benefit Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County.