He’s 65 and still showing the Spirit of ’76.
Friends cheered Charlie Daniels ’ ascent to senior citizenship Monday (Oct. 29) with a combined birthday and album release party at the BMI performing rights society headquarters in Nashville. The new album is The Live Record on the Blue Hat/Audium label. It is Daniels’ 44th collection of songs and his first outside of his “Volunteer Jam” performances to be recorded live.
The party occurred during the week that Daniels’ controversial single, “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” made its first appearance on the Billboard charts. The lyrics of the song — which include the lines “This ain’t no rag, it’s a flag/And we don’t wear it on our heads” — caused Daniels to pull out of the all-star Country Freedom Concert held Oct. 21 in Nashville.
Alluding to the incident, Daniels joked with partygoers that “Ed Benson wanted to thank us for taking some of the pressure off him.” Benson is the executive director of the Country Music Association and a frequent target of criticism for the way the CMA Awards Show and Fan Fair are run.
BMI representative C. Paul Corbin opened the ceremonies by reading Daniels a letter of congratulations from BMI president and CEO Frances Preston. Nick Hunter, president of Audium Entertainment, proclaimed that Daniels is “as close to John Wayne as we’re ever going to get.” He drew cheers at the mention of “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag.”
Tough-talking and flag-waving songs –- such as “In America,” “Simple Man,” “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks” and “America, I Believe in You” — have become a Daniels trademark, although he freely admits he once performed at an anti-war rally in Washington in the late 1960s.
Steve Hauser, Daniels’ booking agent at William Morris, recited some of the artist’s achievements during his past 15 years with the company. In that time, Hauser said, Daniels has played 2,000 concerts, traveled more than 1,500,000 miles, sold more than 1,750,000 T-shirts and caps, raised more than $1 million for charity, sold more than 5 million concert tickets and grossed more than $100 million.
Wade Jessen, Billboard’s director of country, Christian and gospel charts, reported that Daniels’ various albums had been on the Billboard charts for a total of 1,573 weeks — or more than 30 years. He said that “This Ain’t No Rag” matched the performance of “In America,” Daniels’ 1980 hit, by entering the charts at No. 51. Deborah Evans-Price, Billboard’s editor of country and Christian music, praised Daniels as a “husband, father, patriot and a great Christian gentleman.”
Sony Records, Daniels’ former label, presented him with a plaque that signified the sale of 13 million albums worldwide, and a representative of Gibson Musical Instruments gave him a Les Paul 1960 reissue model guitar. David Corlew, Daniels’ longtime manager and president of Blue Hat Records, handed the guest of honor his “first Social Security check.” Carolyn Corlew, a veteran backup singer for the Charlie Daniels Band, led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday.”
When it came his time to speak, Daniels called his wife, Hazel, and son, Charles, to his side. He also recognized by name several others who had been crucial to his career. He voiced amazement that “a country boy from North Carolina with really mediocre talent” could come as far as he has. “When I have my 130th birthday party,” he said, “I hope you’ll all be here.”
After the speeches were over, the guests shared a large, rectangular chocolate birthday cake, topped with white icing and decorated with a fiddle on one side and an American flag on the other.