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Charlie Daniels Shares Surprising Stories From His Legendary Career

Charlie Daniels
Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

Charlie Daniels has had more than 50 years in the music business, which has given him a front row seat to some of the world’s most iconic figures. The 77-year-old has rubbed elbows with well-known artists and political leaders, but he says he isn’t affected by any of his famous friends.

“All these things, they’re just all part of my life,” he tells Nashville’s Tennessean. “It all adds up. And whatever differences you may have, there are 12 notes of music in the world where you can find common ground.”

Daniels says he is forever indebted to rocker Bob Dylan, thanks to a session he played with him that changed the way he approached music.

“He gave himself total freedom to sing however he wanted and to do whatever he wanted to do,” Daniels recalls. “For me it was, ‘I want some of that.’ Not to try to emulate Dylan, or write songs like him, but I wanted to approach music with that kind of freedom.”

It was while Daniels was working with Dylan that he got to play on a song with the recently-departed Beatles member, George Harrison.

“George Harrison was a really nice, down-to-earth little guy, the furthest thing from what you’d think of as one of the most popular musicians in the world,” he recalls. “He and Dylan just wanted to spend time and jam. We were standing there listening to a playback and George asked who plays steel guitar on Dylan’s stuff. I said, ‘Pete Drake.’ George said, ‘I’m fixin’ to do an album, I’d sure like to get hold of him.’”

It was only a few years after that historic session that Daniels, by now gaining his own notoriety as an artist, was invited to play at the inauguration for President Jimmy Carter.

“Jimmy Carter is a good man,” he insists. “He came along, a fresh-faced young man out of Georgia, and he spoke plainly, saying, ‘I never will tell you a lie.’ I don’t think he ever did tell us a lie. I voted for Carter the second time, too. He wasn’t part of the establishment. The town of Washington ate him alive.”

Daniels paid homage to the man who started him on his own career path with his latest album, ‘Off the Grid — Doin’ It Dylan,’ which includes his own take on ten of Dylan’s biggest hits. Order the record here.

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