Daniels fiddling into town

Even before Charlie Daniels first performed in Augusta 37 years ago, local music fans were hearing him without even knowing it.


The North Carolina-born artist already had been playing on Bob Dylan's albums and had co-written one of Elvis Presley's best-known ballads.

You can hear Daniels live again at 7 p.m. Friday at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Ninth Street at Riverwalk. Proceeds will benefit the 12 Bands of Christmas' fight against pediatric cancer.

Opening for Daniels will be the duo Larkin Poe -- sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell , who previously toured with their older sister, Jessica, as The Lovell Sisters.

Daniels' first local appearance was in August 1973 , when he performed at Bell Auditorium as one of three opening acts for the band Canned Heat, headed by vocalist Bob "The Bear" Hite.

At that time, Daniels' first successful solo single, Uneasy Rider, was climbing the music charts.

The month after his appearance, it would be at No. 9 on Billboard 's pop music chart, sandwiched between The Carpenters' Yesterday Once More at No. 8 and Bobby (Boris) Pickett & the Crypt Kickers' Monster Mash at No. 10.

Most listeners hearing Uneasy Rider had no clue about Daniels' earlier musical life , which included playing with the bluegrass Misty Mountain Boys in his native city of Wilmington, N.C.

In 1963, Daniels and producer Bob Johnston co-wrote the ballad It Hurts Me, which first appeared on the B-side of Presley's 1964 single Kissin' Cousins. Johnston was writing under the name "Joe Byers," and Daniels is credited on the single as "Charles E. Daniels."

By the late 1960s, Johnston was producing Columbia Records sessions for Dylan , and that led to Daniels ' playing bass and rhythm guitar on Dylan's albums Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait.

Daniels also played for Dylan in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium in May 1969 for a taping of The Johnny Cash Show.

Performing with Daniels on the Dylan albums was native Augustan Pete Drake on steel guitar.

Once Uneasy Rider became a major hit , Daniels would no longer be regarded as a background musician. He made national headlines in December 1975 by blasting the Ku Klux Klan for using his hit single The South's Gonna Do It Again to promote its cause.

"I'm proud of the South," he angrily told a reporter for the United Press International news syndicate, "but I sure as hell ain't proud of the Ku Klux Klan."

He added, "I wrote it about the land I love and my brothers. That song ain't got nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan."

Daniels made it clear that he was going to stand up for the causes that he believed in, which included actively supporting Georgian Jimmy Carter for president in 1976.

As the years passed, Daniels would perform repeatedly in Augusta and continue to have ties to Georgia. That would be cemented with his extraordinary fiddle on his 1979 single The Devil Went Down To Georgia. The song became an international hit in part because of its inclusion in the John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy.

Daniels has said the origin of the song might be tied to former Augusta resident Steven Vincent Benet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who wrote The Mountain Whippoorwill, which Daniels read in high school.

There is another interesting Augusta connection to Daniels and the immensely popular Volunteer Jam concerts he has held in Nashville, bringing together stars from various musical styles. Who was one of the guests at his 1983 Volunteer Jam? None other than Augusta's own soul music giant James Brown.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for more than 39 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at don.rhodes@morris.com.

Want to go?

WHAT: The Charlie Daniels Band

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Ninth Street at Riverwalk

DETAILS: Proceeds benefit the 12 Bands of Christmas' fight against pediatric cancer

TICKETS: $25 advance, $35 day of show; $40 VIP; www.12bands.org