By Rich Place
At a county fair that often features young, up-and-coming talent, the arrival of Charlie Daniels and his band on Wednesday, Aug. 1 to the Cattaraugus County Fair will celebrate the long and storied career of one of country music’s pioneers.
After all, Daniels, now 81, had already released 18 studio albums by the time Kane Brown, who is scheduled to perform at the fair the day prior, was even born in 1993. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which was Daniels’ 1979 chart-topping hit, had been out for 14 years.
“I love what I do and value my career and put a lot into it,” Daniels said in an interview with The Salamanca Press in 2010 before a show at the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino. “Longevity was always one of my primary goals and I have worked toward that goal all my professional years.”
It’s a goal that Daniels can say he has accomplished — the musician began writing and performing in the late 1950s to start a career that now spans six decades.
“Charlie Daniels has been here before and always has been a big hit,” said Kristina Charlesworth Golden, treasurer for the Cattaraugus County Agricultural Society. “He draws all ages. We have a lot of tickets sold to teenagers who are just discovering the country rock music and tickets sold to those who have been fans for years.”
He’s part of a country music genre that has changed since the era of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Today’s country stars, as evidenced by artists like Brown, for example, may sound different but Daniels said it’s a change he believes is necessary.
“I think any kind of popular music has to be in a constant state of flux to survive,” he explained. “That involves some good, some bad and some inconsequential.”
Daniels himself has never been limited solely to the country music genre. In 1964, he co-wrote “It Hurts Me,” a song recorded by Elvis Presley. Daniels also played electric bass on three albums for Bob Dylan in 1969 and 1970.
In 1979, eight years after Daniels released his first record, his band recorded arguably their most popular tune – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The hit tells the story of a boy named Johnny dueling the Devil in a fiddle match.
When asked why the song became so popular and still remains so today, Daniels said it’s “the novelty of the fiddle and the fact that the good guy always wins.”
Five decades after he began writing his music, Daniels experienced what he calls one of the great moments of his career – being inducted in the Grand Ole Opry. Daniels’ induction was given to him on stage in the form of a Christmas present by fellow country singer Martina McBride.
Completely speechless after receiving the award for some time, Daniels told the audience “I’ve never dreamed that this could ever happen.”
“(It was an) absolutely wonderful long held dream come true,” he remarked about the induction during the 2010 interview.
Tickets for the Charlie Daniels Band are $35 for track seating and $30 for reserved grandstand and general admission bleachers. Gate admission must be purchased for $8 presale through July 29 or $12 at the gate.
The Charlie Daniels Band is scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 at the Cattaraugus County Fair grandstand stage. Doors open at 7 p.m.