A pair of high-pedigree musicians from the southern states will visit Atlantic City as part of a twin billing 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Sound Waves theater.
The North Carolina-born Charlie Daniels is a multi-instrumentalist and professional musician for more than six decades. His gospel, bluegrass and country music background helped pioneer what would be called southern rock, and his band’s multitude of hits are underscored by the 1979 Grammy-winning blockbuster “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Travis Tritt, who is from Georgia, burst onto the country-music scene three decades ago and has two Grammys, seven platinum-selling albums, and five No. 1 Billboard Country hits to his credit, the latter including “Anymore,” “Help Me Hold On,” Can I Trust You with My Heart,” Foolish Pride” and “Best of Intentions.” Among Tritt’s 15 other Top-10 singles are “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde,” “Here’s A Quarter” and “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive.”
Daniels’ signature song has him best known to the public as a fiddle player, but in his early days as a Nashville studio musician he played guitar and electric bass on three Bob Dylan albums dating back to 1969. His last A.C. appearance was in 2014 when he and his band toured behind their Dylan tribute album “Off The Grid — Doin’ It Dylan,” and in October 2018 the Charlie Daniels Band released a 10-song album called “Beau Weevils — Songs in the Key of E.”
A Country Music Hall-of-Famer, Daniels had a hit in 1973 called “Uneasy Rider” — a comical number that conjures up reminders of the infamous diner scene in the 1969 counterculture classic movie “Easy Rider.” His 1980 spine-chilling yarn “Legend of Wooley Swamp” highlights — as does his mega-hit “Devil” — Daniels’ exceptional talent for telling stories through song. Other CDB songs that got a slew of radio airplay over the years include “Long Haired Country Boy,” “Still In Saigon,” “Texas” and “South’s Gonna Do It Again.”
At The Shore chatted with Daniels in advance of his band’s Hard Rock appearance with Travis Tritt.
At The Shore: Your band has released more than 40 albums over the years — what’s your feeling about how “Beau Weevils — Songs in the Key of E” turned out?
Charlie Daniels: I’m very happy with it. That was actually kind of a one-off thing — the culmination of a long-held desire to work with a guy by the name of James Stroud who produced our most successful country records. But he’s also one of the top-five most soulful drummers on the face of the earth, and I always wanted to set up something with him.
Until recently, though, we had no material until I started writing this Song in the Key of E stuff. And I figured ‘Hey this has a good, swampy, bluesy kind of sound.’ We just had an absolute ball doing it and putting it together. It was a lot of fun.
ATS: Guitarist Billy Crain and bassist Charlie Hayward are credited as contributors on that album. I remember Hayward’s name from when you were in A.C. the last time. He’s been with your touring band for quite a while now, right?
CD: He’s been with me for 44 years now, so yeah, I’d call that a while (laughs). I’ll also have with me Bruce Brown on guitar, who’s been with me for about 30 years, Chris Wormer on the other guitar (about 20 years), and our keyboard player is Shannon Wickline, who’s been with me I think about eight years. My longtime drummer, Taz DiGregorio, was with me for nearly 40 years but died in a car accident not too long ago, so our current drummer, Ron Gannaway, is our newest member. But he’s got decades of experience and is an excellent musician.
ATS: Didn’t Taz co-write with you the song “Devil Went Down to Georgia”?
CD: He was a major contributor, but our style of writing has always been to get together with the whole band. I’d want to hear the different parts as I was writing them. We did a lot of that back in day.
ATS: Since you were last in A.C. about five years ago you’ve penned two books — “Never Look at the Empty Seats” and “Let’s All Make the Day Count.” What are your thoughts on how they turned out?
CD: Well, “Never Look at the Empty Seats” was a biography about 20 years in the making. The other one was an inspirational sort of book that was the publisher’s idea. The folks at HarperCollins, after we turned in the biography, asked me about doing what they call a gift book. I didn’t really know what a gift book was at the time but I do a little inspirational writing on my website every day (called Soap Box), and they wanted me to do one, so I got another experience in. It’s full name is “Let’s All Make the Day Count: the Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels.”
In general I’m happy with both projects. I don’t have any formal education in writing — I just sat down and started doing it. Writing a book is similar to songwriting. A lot of the same kind of creative energy goes into it, from one to the other.
ATS: What can CDB fans expect to hear at Hard Rock? Naturally you’ll play “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” but I remember songs like “Long Haired Country Boy” and “Legend of Wooley Swamp” getting tons of airplay years ago.
CD: We’re doing both of those and do both of them almost every night. They’re two of our most popular songs. “Long Haired Country Boy” — that was part of (the album) “Fire On the Mountain,” which came out in 1974. Some songs just have staying power. Some people just want to hear them, so we keep doing them every night.
Every night I also do a tribute to Johnny Cash as part of the show. He was a great guy and a huge influence on me. We try to span the gamut of our career as a band but when you’re touring with another band, and also have an opening act, you’re kind of limited by time.
ATS: Do you still enjoy the touring life after all the years?
CD: It’s always been comfortable for me. We got a little bit busier this year than what we usually do, but it’s not something unmanageable. Doing very many more might be, but 100 shows a year is very doable for us. Right now it’s busy because a lot of the outdoor events are still going on, and this is the time of year, when the weather is nice, is when they can happen. It’s an enjoyable time of the year for me, and I really enjoy being out on the road.
We’re just going out and doing the same thing — kicking butt every night. That’s what it’s all about.