Charlie + Hazel Daniels — Country Music’s Greatest Love Stories
When Charlie Daniels died on July 6, 2020, he left behind a small family: his son, Charlie Daniels Jr., and Hazel Juanita Alexander Daniels, his wife of more than 50 years. The country legend considered their lengthy marriage one of his greatest achievements.
"Marriage is not an experiment. It is a commitment. It’s a sacred commitment, and it’s who you marry you’re supposed to stay with. If you can’t find somebody you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, don’t tie the knot, because that’s not gonna make ya happy," Daniels told the Oklahoman in 2014. "I've been blessed with finding the girl of my dreams, and here I am 50 years after, without a regret in the world about marryin’ my darlin’ from Tulsa."
Daniels first met Hazel at Tulsa's Fondalite Club, where he was performing. “She’s not much of a clubgoer, but she came with a girlfriend of hers one night. And I said, 'Hey I like that curvy little blonde over there. Hey how are you doin'?'" Daniels remembered with a laugh, adding, "It kinda went on from there, you know."
The couple married on Sept. 20, 1964. As Daniels recalled in 2016, "[W]e, Hazel's parents, my other three band members and a couple of friends walked up a flight of steps to a Justice of the Peace's office in Tulsa and tied the knot and went to a local cafeteria for lunch, went by and visited her parents for a few minutes and went to what was to be our home for the next few months, a hotel room in a not-too-great part of town."
There was no time for an official honeymoon: Daniels had a Monday show to play after their no-frills Sunday wedding. In fact, as a musician trying to make a name for himself, he was gone quite a bit in the early days of their marriage.
"But I’ve been able to remedy that. In the last 50 years, we had a whole bunch of honeymoons," Daniels once explained. "We don’t necessarily take them on our anniversary, but we’ve seen a good bit of the world together."
Hazel was "a wonderful and devoted mother" to the couple's son Charlie, Daniels wrote in 2016, noting that she did much of the parenting due to his touring schedule. After Charlie Jr. went to college, however, Hazel joined Daniels on the road full time.
"Sometimes when people look at our lifestyle as it is today, they tend to think that life has been nothing but a long smooth ride for us, that our marriage has not had storms to weather or difficulties to overcome. Nothing could be further from the truth," Daniels once shared. "The difference is that we always faced everything together, whether it was repossessed cars, mountainous debt, too many bills and not enough money or whatever else came at us.
"She has stood behind me in every career decision, every move to another town and we've shared every disappointment, every triumph, every defeat and every victory," he continued. Daniels even went so far as to say that his Country Music Hall of Fame-worthy career (he was inducted in 2016) "simply would not have happened" without Hazel.
"She has always been my tether to reality, my safe harbor in a storm, my rock and, above all, my best friend," he once wrote of his wife. "She has been up for whatever I wanted to do, from taking up golf, riding motorcycles and later on horses to gallivanting around the world, snowmobiling or driving 1,500 miles to go on vacation after traveling 100,000 [miles] with me on the road."
After Daniels co-founded the Journey Home Project, a veterans-focused non-profit organization, in 2014, the couple opened the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University in 2015. The Center helps veterans and their families transition to civilian life after serving the country.
"It's an honor for me just to be married to him," Hazel told Rare Country in 2016. "He's been a great husband, and he's worked so hard to get here. He's had a long road."