Daniels is a singer, guitarist, and fiddler, who began writing and performing in the 1950s. In 1964, Daniels co-wrote “It Hurts Me” (a song which Elvis Presley recorded) with Joy Byers. He worked as a Nashville session musician, often for producer Bob Johnston, including playing electric bass on three Bob Dylan albums during 1969 and 1970, and on recordings by Leonard Cohen. Daniels recorded his first solo album, Charlie Daniels, in 1971 (see 1971 in country music). He produced the 1969 album by The Youngbloods, Elephant Mountain and played the violin on “Darkness, Darkness”.
His first hit, the novelty song “Uneasy Rider”, was from his 1973 second album, Honey in the Rock, and reached No.9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
During this period, Daniels played fiddle on many of The Marshall Tucker Band’s early albums: “A New Life”, “Where We All Belong”, “Searchin’ For a Rainbow”, “Long Hard Ride” and “Carolina Dreams”. Daniels can be heard on the live portion of the “Where We All Belong” album, recorded in Milwaukee, WI on July 11, 1974.
In 1974, Daniels organized the first in a series of Volunteer Jam concerts based in or around Nashville, Tennessee, often playing with members of Barefoot Jerry. Except for a three-year gap in the late 1980s, these jams have continued ever since.
In 1975, he had a top 30 hit as leader of the Charlie Daniels Band with the Southern rock self-identification anthem “The South’s Gonna Do It Again”. “Long Haired Country Boy” was a minor hit in that year. Daniels played fiddle on Hank Williams, Jr.’s 1975 album Hank Williams, Jr. and Friends.
Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, which reached #3 on the Hot 100 in September 1979. The following year, “Devil” became a major crossover success on rock radio stations after its inclusion on the soundtrack for the hit movie Urban Cowboy. Daniels appeared in the movie. The song is by far Daniels’ greatest success, still receiving regular airplay on U.S. classic rock and country stations, and is well-known even among audiences who eschew country music in general. A hard rock/heavy metal cover version of the song was included in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as the final guitar battle against the last boss (Lou, the devil). Daniels has openly stated his opposition to the metal cover and the devil winning occasionally in the game.
Subsequent Daniels pop hits included “In America” (#11 in 1980), “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” (#31 in 1980), and “Still in Saigon” (#22 in 1982). In 1980, Daniels participated in the country music concept album, The Legend of Jesse James.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, several of Daniels’ albums and singles were hits on the Country charts and the music continues to receive airplay on country stations today. Daniels released several Gospel and Christian records. In 1999 he made a guest vocal appearance on his song “All Night Long” with Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry) for their debut album, “Tattoos and Scars,” which was a commercial success.
“Uneasy Rider” is a 1973 song written and performed byÂ Charlie Daniels.It consists of a narrative that is spoken rather than sung over a guitar melody and is sometimes considered a novelty song. It was released as a single and appeared on Daniels’ album Honey in the Rock which is also sometimes known as Uneasy Rider.
The narrator protagonist of “Uneasy Rider” is a long-haired marijuana smoker driving a Chevrolet with a “peace sign, mag wheels, and four on the floor.” The song is a spoken-word description of an interlude in a trip from a non-specified location in the Southern United States to Los Angeles, California. When one of the narrator’s tires goes flat in Jackson, Mississippi, he stops at a “redneck” bar where he encounters several local residents who question his manners, physical appearance, and choice of car. In order to extricate himself from a potential physical altercation, the narrator accuses one of the locals of being a spy, then escapes from the bar and drives away as soon as his tire is repaired.
The lyrics reflect cultural divisions in the Southern United States in the early 1970s between the counterculture of the 1960s and more traditional Southern culture. Unlike with most country music of the time, Daniels’ protagonist is a member of the counterculture. The narrator attempts to distract attention from himself and his appearance by proclaiming that one of the locals he encounters is an “…undercover agent for the FBI / and he’s been sent down here to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan!” He continues with, “Would you believe this man has gone as far / As tearing Wallace stickers off the bumpers of cars. / And he voted for George McGovern for President.” He further states that the man is “…a friend of them long-haired, hippie-type, pinko fags! / I betcha he’s even got a Commie flag / tacked up on the wall inside of his garage.” The accused defends himself with “You know he’s lying I been living here all of my life! / I’m a faithful follower of Brother John Birch / And I belong to the Antioch Baptist Church. / And I ain’t even got a garage, you can call home and ask my wife!” The narrator slips outside, just in time to get to the mechanic he had phoned to repair his tire and hand him a $20 bill, and chases his redneck adversaries around the parking lot in his car. He finally decides to leave before the police arrive and muses, “I think I’m gonna reroute my trip / And I wonder if anybody’d think I’d flipped / If I went to L.A. via Omaha.”
Daniels’ counterculture attitude was consistent with that of others in the outlaw country music movement but is in contrast to his later right-of-center attitudes expressed in songs such as the 1989’s “Simple Man.”
I was takin’ a trip out to L.A.
Toolin’ along in my Cheverolet
Tokin’ on a number and diggin’ on the radio
Just as I crossed the Mississippi line
I heard that highway start to whine
And I knew that left rear tire was about to blow
Well the spare was flat and I got uptight
‘Cause there wasn’t a filling station in sight
So I just limped on down the shoulder on the rim
I went as far as I could and when I stopped the car
It was right in front of this little bar, a
Kind of a red-neck lookin’ joint called the “Dew Drop Inn”
Well I stuffed my hair up under my hat
And told the bartender that I had a flat
And would he be kind enough to give me change for a one
Well there was one thing I was sure proud to see
There wasn’t a soul in the place except for him and me and
He just looked disgusted and pointed toward the telephone
I called up the station down the road a ways and
He said he wasn’t very busy today
And he could have somebody there in just about 10 minutes or so
He said,” Now, you just stay right where yer at!”
And I didn’t bother to tell the dern fool
That I sure as hell didn’t have anyplace else to go
I just ordered up a beer and sat down at the bar
When some guy walked in and said, “Who owns this car
With the peace sign, the mag wheels and the four on the floor?”
Well he looked at me and I damn near died
And I decided that I’d just wait outside
So I laid a dollar on the bar and headed for the door
Just when I thought I’d get outta there with my skin
These 5 big dudes come strollin’ in
With this one old drunk chick and some fella with green teeth
Now I was almost to the door when the biggest one
Said, “You tip your hat to this lady, son!”
And when I did, all that hair fell out from underneath
Now the last thing I wanted was to get into a fight
In Jackson Mississippi on a Saturday night
Especially when there was three of them and only one of me
They all started laughin’ and I felt kinda sick
And I knew I better think of something pretty quick
So I just reached out and kicked old green teeth right in the knee
Now he let out a yell that’d curl yer hair
But before he could move I grabbed me a chair
And said “Now watch him Folks cause he’s a furly dangerous man!”
“Well you may not know it but this man is a spy.
He’s a undercover agent for the FBI
And he’s been sent down here to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan!”
He was still bent over holdin’ on to his knee
But everybody else was lookin’ and listenin’ to me
And I laid it on thicker and heavier as I went
I said “Would you believe this man has gone as far
As tearing Wallace stickers off the bumpers of cars
And he voted for George McGovern for President.”
“Well he’s a friend of them long haired, hippy-type, pinko fags!
I betchya he’s even got a commie flag
Tacked up on the wall inside of his garage.”
“He’s a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys
He may look dumb but that’s just a disguise
He’s a mastermind in the ways of espionage”
They all started lookin’ real suspicious at him and
He jumped up and said “Now just wait a minute Jim!
You know he’s lyin’ I been livin’ here all of my life!”
“I’m a faithful follower of Brother John Birch
And I belong to the Antioch Baptist Church.
And I ain’t even got a garage, you can call home and ask my wife!”
Then he started saying somethin’ ’bout the way I was dressed
But I didn’t wait around to hear the rest
I was too busy movin’ and hopin’ I didn’t run outta luck
And when I hit the ground I was makin’ tracks
And they were just taking my car down off the jacks
So I threw the man a twenty and jumped in and fired that mother up
Mario Andretti woulda sure been proud
Of the way I was movin’ when I passed that crowd
Comin’ out the door and headed toward me at a trot
And I guess I shoulda gone ahead and run
But somehow I just couldn’t resist the fun
Of chasin’ them all just once around the parking lot
Well they’re headed for their car but I hit the gas and
Spun around and headed ‘em off at the pass
I was slingin’ gavel and puttin’ a ton o’ dust in the air
Well I had them all out there steppin’ and fetchin’
Like their heads was on fire and their asses was catchin’
but I figgered I’d better go ahead and split before the cops got there
When I hit the road I was really wheelin’
Had gravel flyin’ and rubber squeelin’
And I didn’t slow down till I was almost to Arkansas
Well I think I’m gonna reroute my trip
I wonder if anybody’d think I’d flipped
If I went to L.A., via Omaha
- Audio from the 1973 album, Honey in the Rock, which later became Uneasy Rider: