The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Tim Bullard: 1998 Interview with Charlie Daniels

Interviews / Books / Music

From the Archives, look at what we found from Fall 1998!

Interview by Tim Bullard

TIM: Could you tell me about the Dew Drop Inn?
CHARLIE DANIELS: Well, I know there are several places by the name of Dew Drop Inn, but the one I wrote about was totally fictitious.

Q: What’s new in your career and your work right now? What’s coming up?
CD: We’re still doing what we’ve been doing. We’re cutting records and doing shows. We did an Australian tour back in January. We’re touring extensively this year in the U.S. Our latest album, I’ve got two albums out actually, one is a family album called ‘By the Light of the Moon,’ and one is a blues album called ‘Blues Hat.’

Q: Oh, that’s a good one. I’ve heard it.
CD: Well, thank you. We’re fixing to go in starting next week and record a lot of the old fiddle songs over again. You know, a lot of those were recording a lot of the old fiddle songs again. A lot of those were recorded twenty years ago, and the techniques are better, so we’re going to go in and record some of those. Just the same-ole’ same-ole, cutting records and playing shows.

CD: No, we won’t do one this year. I don’t know if we’re going to do another one, really. We don’t do one every year. We just do them when we can get a good line-up of talent. But what we’re thinking of doing, we may take it on the road next year. We’ve never done that before, so we’re thinking of doing that.

Q: Tell me, why did you change the lyrics to ‘Long-Haired Country Boy?’
CD: Ah, at the time I wrote that it was kind of a tongue-in-cheek sort of a thing, and you know, it got to the point that drugs and alcohol have gotten to be such a horrendous problem with the young folks nowadays that I don’t want to do anything that would encourage it, so I just figured I’d change the lyrics to it. I figured it was the Christian thing to do.

Q: How did you feel when your gospel albums did so well?
CD: I loved it. I really put a lot into both of those gospel albums. It gratifying that people like it. Of course, they’re special. Those albums go a lot deeper with me than just being successful. The music is very special to me.

Q: Where was the Wooley Swamp at?
CD: Wooley Swamp is down in the center of North Carolina. You know where Elizabethtown is at, by any chance?
Q: Yep.
CD: It’s right in that area there.

Q: Did you ever see the Maco Light?
(The Light at Maco Station is a ghost light near Wilmington, N.C., the birthplace of Charlie Daniels. Allegedly, a railroad brakeman, Joe Baldwin, lost his head in a track collision, and his head was never found. A light has been seen through the years going up and down the track, and people say it is Joe Baldwin’s phantom looking for his head with a lantern. The Wilmington Morning Star has a morgue file on it as thick as your leg, noting how military specialists have studied it, and there is no answer for it besides swamp gas.)
CD: Oh yeah. I’ve seen the Maco Light.
Q: What was that like when you saw it?
CD: Well, it looked just like a lantern down a railroad track when I saw it. I think they’ve torn that track up now.
Q: Yeah, they did.
CD: I used to, years and years ago, I’ve been over there a couple of times and seen it.
Q: What do you think of it? Is it pretty weird?
CD: Yeah, it’s weird, but I’m sure there’s an explanation for it. I have no idea what it is. But there is an explanation for everything, you know. It was not scary to me or anything. Of course, a bunch of us went over to see it, you know, and rode up there and looked. It’s pretty wild. Have you seen it?
Q: No, but my uncle saw it. I’m from Laurinburg.
CD: Yeah. Uh-huh.

Q: What was it like working with Dylan on ‘Nashville Skyline.’
CD: Oh, it was great. It was a lot of fun. We did that album in a very short while. It didn’t take very long at all to get it done. Everybody was having so much fun on it, we just knocked it right out.

Q: Did you ever meet Elvis Presley?
CD: No, I never met Elvis.

Q: Of course, you did ‘It Hurts Me’ on the flip side of ‘Kissin’ Cousins.”
CD: Uh-huh. Yeah.
Q: Do you still get royalties on it?
CD: Yeah, I think every once and a while they send me a check.
Q: In South Carolina the Confederate flag is flying on the Statehouse, and everybody is raising cain about it, and it’s a big issue in the Legislature. They’re talking about putting it down or bringing it down. I asked Gary Rossington when they visited House of Blues here about the flag, and he said it was mostly an issue of pride back through the years with them. What do you think about the Confederate flag these days?
CD: I think it symbolizes an area of the country to me. It doesn’t symbolize anything else. It has to do with a part of the country that I came from. This flag designates what it is. It doesn’t have anything to do with slavery or racial prejudice or anything in my book. Unfortunately there are some people who do have that attitude. They use that flag. There are people that literally hate other people because of their race and will have that flag as part of their regalia. And I think that’s what gave it the bad name. But myself personally, I think it’s a beautiful flag. I take pride from being from the Southeastern part of the United States. You know, I’m up there about 70 miles from where you are – in Wilmington. Actually, if they take that flag down, that’s not going to do away with the things people are associating with it. That’s not going to have a doggone thing to do with it. It’s just going to make it worse. You know, it doesn’t seem to bother anybody else that other people use symbols of their prejudice. There are other flags. There are other symbols of prejudice that other people use that nobody seems to bother with but that particular one that they’re picking on really well. It’s a piece of cloth that designates a part of the country is the way I look at it. I think we ought to forget all the other stuff and just let it be that.

Q: My wife kids me because when I bought ‘Freebird: The Movie,’ I started crying. You were at The Palace in Myrtle Beach last year when it debuted on VH-1. What did you think about it the first time you saw it?
CD: The movie? I saw it at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta when they previewed it. I saw it in the big theater with the big speakers. It was like sitting in a concert crowd. It was pretty doggone incredible. I don’t know how to tell you. It was pretty incredible.
Q: What did you think about Ronnie Van Zant?
CD: I loved Ronnie. Ronnie was a good friend of mine. I was stunned. I was shell-shocked when he was killed?

Q: Who are some of your favorite country artists now?
CD: Hal Ketchum. I like Hal Ketchum. I like Garth Brooks. I like Martina McBride. I like Travis Tritt. You know, to be honest with you, bud, I don’t listen to much country radio. I listen to CDs when I exercise. I do exercise about an hour or an hour and a half every day usually several days a week, and that’s when I listen to a lot of the music. Well, I listened to Blind Lemon Jefferson one day. I listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan one day. I listened to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony one day. I listened to Chamber Music and Trio this morning while I was exercising. I may listen to jazz. I may listen to anything. There is no telling.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?
CD: Outdoor things. Golf. Riding horses and shooting guns, that kind of stuff.
Q: What do you think about Myrtle Beach and the golf here?
CD: I love Myrtle Beach. I think Myrtle Beach is a great place. There are probably more golf courses down there than any one concentrated area that I know anything about.
Q: Yes. We’re getting the 100th one this year.
CD: It’s amazing.

Q: Did you see the movie ‘The Apostle?”
CD: Yeah. I liked it. I was all prepared not to because being a Christian, I’ve seen so many people poke fun at evangelists and preachers and that sort of that, and that’s what I thought it was when I first saw it, the advertising. I saw him on “The 700 Club” and Pat Robertson was really bragging on the movie, so that’s basically why I went to see it. I thought it was amazing how close he was to a lot of denominations.