Review: Charlie Daniels + Friends Command Crowd During Biggest Volunteer Jam Yet
Charlie Daniels had plenty to celebrate at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night (Nov. 30): The country music icon celebrated both his 80th birthday (which is technically on Oct. 28) and the 42nd anniversary of his Volunteer Jam with an all-star show that included performances by Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Travis Tritt and more.
"This will be by far the biggest jam, people-wise, we have ever done," Daniels told The Boot and other reporters prior to the show. "We started out in the War Memorial [Auditorium] with 2,200 seats back in 1974, 42 years ago. Tonight, we’re somewhere between 14,500 and 15,000 people, so this will be, by far, the biggest jam we’ve ever done."
Southern rock band 3 Doors Down kicked off the star-studded night by performing some of their hits, including "Here Without You" and "Kryptonite."
"We are incredibly honored to be here," shared 3DD lead singer Brad Arnold. "I love Charlie with all my heart. And to be here, and be able to be part of this event, is an incredible honor; it really is. When people ask you about being here, it’s easy to kind of say, ‘We’re happy to be here.’ But we truly are honored to be here with Charlie."
Larry the Cable Guy, the evening's second performer, kept the crowd entertained by sharing some of his own personal anecdotes. Backstage, he recalled to media members how he's "been listening to Charlie since I was a kid."
"You think of Charlie Daniels, you think of America ...," he said. "I love everything he stands for. I love his music. When I got the call to come do this, there was no hesitation."
Tritt, the first country star to take the stage, sang "I'm Gonna Be Somebody," "Here's a Quarter" and "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," among others. The singer received help from Daniels early on in his career, and Tritt admits that he feels a kinship to the country icon.
"He and I are very much the same, in that we’re old road dogs," Tritt explained. "I don’t think retirement is in his vocabulary. It’s certainly not in mine either. We love what we do, [and] we’re very privileged to be able to do what we do, and be able to go out there, entertain people and put on shows for people, and bring the music to people all over everywhere. It’s still one of the greatest thrills in the world."
Following two songs from Kid Rock, Stapleton commanded the Volunteer Jam stage for 20 minutes, showing off not only his impressive vocal abilities with songs such as "Outlaw State of Mind" and "Whiskey and You," but also his guitar skills, vamping with his band at the end of the songs while the crowd roared.
"Charlie’s a huge hero of mine," Stapleton noted. "It means a lot for me to be here today, and be out here supporting the troops and the good things that this Volunteer Jam does. Those are all important things."
Bryan, too, was humbled to be included in the night's entertainment: "Certainly, to be a part of [this event] and be onstage with an icon -- anything that he’s a part of, I’m just honored to be a part of," Bryan said, "and I’m so blessed to have gotten to work with Charlie in the past on stuff."
As is tradition at the Volunteer Jam, Daniels' and his band were joined during their performance by the acts on the night's bill: Kid Rock sang with Daniels on "Long Haired Country Boy," while Bryan performed "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and Stapleton, Tritt, Kid Rock and 3 Doors Down all collaborated on the Marshall Tucker Band hits "Can't You See" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Randy Travis even made a surprise appearance, to help honor his friend and fellow Class of 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee with the Rare Country Humanitarian of the Year Award, honoring Daniels’ work with the Journey Home Project, a non-profit organization co-founded by Daniels and his manager, David Corlew, that helps veterans transition after returning home from tours abroad. The 2016 Volunteer Jam raised $245,000 for the organization.
In honor of the Volunteer Jam, his 80th birthday and his recent Hall of Fame induction, Daniels was also presented with his own custom-made Gibson guitar, bearing his image on the front. And Daniels, too, had gifts to give: Prior to the show, he presented each performer with an engraved gun and knife.
Backstage, Daniels admitted that the 2016 Volunteer Jam's lineup was one of his favorites in the event's history -- "Where else can you see Chris Stapleton and Larry the Cable Guy?" -- and that "topping last year’s Jam and this year’s Jam, or just being level with it, will be hard."