Charlie Daniels shares his journey of faith, his long-standing commitment to the military, and his passion for Jesus Calling.
Charlie Daniels: I was five years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I come from Wilmington, North Carolina, which is a sea coast town. I remember — It was the days before television and we — My granddad had a big old full model radio and remember being with my family. It was a real gray Sunday and I remember hearing on the radio. There was a scratchy overseas broadcast it was talking about the Japanese Imperial Air Force had bombed our naval base in Pearl Harbor. I was much too young to grasp the gravity of the situation, I knew something very serious that happened. My formative years were during the Second World War.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Today’s podcast features Grammy–award winning musician Charlie Daniels. Charlie has had a very successful music career spanning decades, with multi-platinum selling records. Along with his musical endeavors, Charlie has recently become involved with an organization that gives help and aid to US Veterans. Charlie shares some scenes from his early years that have influenced where he is today and the faith that accompanied him all along the way:
Charlie Daniels’ Musical Background
Charlie: I was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and I had gone to first grade all of two weeks and my dad changed jobs and we moved to Valdosta, Georgia. I lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in my formative years. My dad’s job kept him moving around a lot, so I went to as many as three schools in a year’s time more than once. But I finally landed on my feet in a little town called Gulf, North Carolina, which is in the central part of the state. I went to all of my high school days at the school in Goldston, North Carolina, class of 1955 had 22 graduates in it.
I’ve always loved music, my family’s always loved music although there was hardly anybody that actually played. And certainly nobody played well enough to have the patience to show me how to do it. As the good Lord would have it, I went up to my friend’s house one day, a guy I had known for a long time. I had no idea that he had a guitar. He had an old Stella guitar. The strings probably had never been changed on it, neck about the size a half of a fence post and it’s strings were way up off the neck, but he knew about two and a half chords on it. I said “You got to show me that. I’ve always wanted to know how play.”
Anyway, to make a long story short, he showed me that and then we started bugging everybody that we could find that knew one more chord then we did. I can’t read music, I learned to play completely by ear. I played guitar for a while and then started playing mandolin and the fingerboard on mandolin and fiddle is the same. Of course you play one with a pick and one with a bow. Somebody showed up with a fiddle one day and I had to give that a shot. I started with it and one of the kids I went to school with said when I played the fiddle it sounded like somebody stepped on a cat because I do it all wrong. I didn’t know any better. I just tried to get comfortable with it and just sawing on it.
I started playing when I was probably about 15 years old and we played square dances and any place that would get somebody that get us to play a song for learning to play. I moved back to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1956 and there was a lady that was putting together a band to play in Jacksonville, North Carolina, which is the home of the Second Marine Division. It was one of the few places where they could have music for six nights a week. I was working a daytime job, I used to drive 50 miles up, play, drive 50 miles back, go to work early in the morning.
I moved to Nashville in ’67. I was already pretty seasoned into show business when I got here, but of course Nashville was a different … was a horse by a different color, it was recording, creating, and that sort of thing rather than performance. I moved here with a 20 dollar bill and the clutch out on my car and a wife and a baby. That’s just one of the many stories around … You get around Nashville, you start with the people that came here.
I thought I wanted to be behind the scenes. I started doing record production and playing some sessions and stuff like that, but actually all the time I had this burning desire to get back on stage because it’s what I wanted to do. It’s where my heart was. It’s where my talent mostly is.
My first recording contract came about in a very odd way. I was producing an act in San Francisco, a guy named Jerry Corbett. He was on Capitol Records and we were in LA one day playing some of the sides we had recorded for the brass at Capitol, so they could hear what we were doing. (edit clearing throat) Jerry’s manager, a guy named Donald Ruben, said … He had heard some of my songs and said “Charlie, why don’t you play some of your songs?” There was guitar there and I picked up the guitar and started playing some of my songs. There was a guy in the room from Capitol Records. He signed me on the spot. That’s what began my recording career, of course there’s to be a while before we made much noise in records, but that’s how it started. It’s funny how some of the things … Some of the best things that ever happen to you happen of the cuff. Tthings you don’t plan, things you don’t look for, they’re total surprises when they happen. So many times I’ve had things happen to me like that.
Narrator: Charlie went on to record numerous hits, and had the opportunity to share the stage with many huge musical icons while creating his niche in country music. Although he’s still in the business of making music, Charlie has a couple of new passions these days, as well. One of them is being involved with a non-profit organization called the “Journey Home Project.” He shares what led him to get involved in this area:
Charlie Daniels on the Journey Home Project
Charlie: Wilmington played a very strategic part in the Second World War. There was a shipyard there that built Liberty Ships. There was a port there that oil tankers and cargo ships came out and went through the mouth of the Cape Fear River and over across the Atlantic Ocean to service our military over in Europe. A lot of them were sunk just off our coast by German U-Boats that laid just off our coast, German submarines. It’s said, I never saw because I was too young to do that, but it is said that you could see the fires of battle from our beaches sometimes. That’s how close the war was and we took it very seriously.
I learned very early in my life that — and I say this on stage every night “Only two things protect America. It’s the grace of almighty God and the United States military,” it’s that way in 1941, it’s that way this year, next year, the year after, as long as this country remains free, it will be that. It’s a part of who I am to respect and support the military.
I’ve been among these guys. I’ve been into war zones with these guys. I’ve seen them. They spend their time in places you don’t even want to go to, where there’s nothing. Some people seem to think for some reason or another that our military people have an extra gene that isolates them from missing their families and loneliness and that sort of thing. It’s not so, they miss their families just as bad as anybody else does that’s away from them. They go and do that because they’re patriots and the least that we can do is respect and support them. I’m there. I respect them. I support them.
That’s what Journey Home is all about. We try to soften the landing for our military men and women who come back from service, most of them from battle areas, combat areas. We do things like, we try to have them get educated if they need education. To come back into society… To come back in and feel a part of it. Back during the Second World War and some of the other wars we fought, people that two or three weeks to get home on a ship. Now you get on a plane, and one day you’re back in the USA. You get off, you come out of a combat zone and you fly in and you get out and walk out the airport, you’re on the city streets somewhere. It’s a world that’s very foreign to you sometimes and sometimes it takes a little readjustment. Some people more than others, but we just try to help anyway we can.
Well we’re dependent on donations. Basically advance, we don’t solicit … particularly solicit individual donations, although we’d take them if somebody send them in. We work hard for it. Volunteer Jam last year was a big money raiser for us. I think we did about $300,000 off of it mainly due to sponsor money and that sort of thing. We do an event at the Palm every year. Somebody that wants to get involved can come to that and have fun at the same time. We allocate funds to the people we feel like are more deserving and where it would be put to the best use.
Charlie Daniels’ Faith Journey
Narrator: As passionate as Charlie is about helping U.S. Veterans, he is also passionate about his faith. Charlie describes how that faith sustained him through some difficult times:
Charlie: I like to think that my faith impacts everything that I do and everything that I am. I’m writing a biography right now and the hardest part for me to write was on my faith was trying to express my feelings and my — what I feel and what my feelings, my concept of what Christianity is and what it means. I had to get pretty introspective about it and it was a hard part for me to write.
And I got figuring the only — the one perfect human being ever born, since Adam and Eve. One perfect human being ever born since Adam and Eve, one perfect human being without blemish, without sin, was Jesus Christ. So He broke the chain.
It’s like “This is for everybody. This one shedding of blood covers your sins. You repent, you believe, and you act on it.”
Commit the 91st Psalm to memory “We live within the shadow of the Almighty. Sheltered by the God who is above all gods.” It’s a psalm of protection. I have repeated that in a lot of different situations,
I was about 20 miles off a snowmobile trail when I had a stroke. I first of all thought it was a … My left hand started going numb. I thought it was because of the lever I was using over there. I got to feeling it it was down in my foot, it was up in my jaw and I said “Something’s wrong here, we need to go.” I told the people that I was with “Let’s head back down the mountain.” I was able to ride a snowmobile all the way back down the mountain. Then a series of things started happening. I was in Durango, Colorado. We were on the same side of town as the hospital. We could of been 90 miles the other way. The people that always hauled a snowmobile trailer had not brought one. I had two extra snowmobiles and they used my snowmobiles that day, so they had a car with no trailer on it. We drove into to the hospital. I went into the hospital, they gave me a TCP shot. I had about 15-20 minutes left to do it in because it loses its effectiveness after a while. God– hospital, this side of town– God. Car without a trailer on it– God. Having this shot when I got there– God.
They put me on an airplane and took me to Denver to Swedish Hospital. When I got there, I found out that one of the people that worked at Swedish Hospital was doing some work with the hospital in Durango. They had only had that shot in their hospital for about three months– God. That was laid out. I’m going to have a stroke, but I’m going to have it in a place where we can get back down the mountain. We can get the help. I mean I know doctors treat, God heals.
Jesus Calling & Charlie Daniels
Narrator: Another part of Charlie Daniels’ faith experience has been the practice of reading Jesus Calling daily. Charlie remembers the day he discovered Jesus Calling, and since then, he and his wife have made it a part of their everyday life.
Charlie: It’s been several years ago, and I’ll be married 52 years in September, so I’m pretty seasoned into the ways of married life. I know when my wife goes shopping, if I go with her, best thing for me to do is just take a good book or find something I want to do or look around. Anyway, I think we were in Flagstaff, Arizona on a day off, and she went. I went in a bookstore, and I looked down and there was a leather bound book there. That’s what it was, Jesus Calling. I picked it up and looked at it and went and bought it. You know what’s amazing about it? I’m sure you’ve probably encountered this a lot as you’ve done these interviews. It’s amazing how much the daily reading applies to something that’s going on in your life at that time. I found it to be that way.
I read it everyday. I read Jesus Calling everyday. My wife reads it everyday. I don’t know how many copies we’ve given away. We keep giving them away for Christmas or give a couple of cases of them and pass them out to friends and people. It’s just part of my devotional everyday.
It’s amazing how much … I’ve talked to other people who said the same thing. You get up in the morning, and you read Jesus Calling. It’s got something to do with something that’s going on in your life. It’s just part of my devotional. It’s part of my reading, what I do every morning.
Narrator: Charlie’s legacy in music is well-known, and his endeavors to help others, as his faith leads him, will continue to build his legacy for generations to come. Once again, Charlie:
Charlie: There’s a scripture in the bible for just about everything we’re confronted with, but I’ve committed to the 91st Psalm to memory a long time ago. I’ve said it in mind flying in helicopters in Iraq. I’ve said it in my mind anytime that I feel in a need that I need to do it because he is ultimately in charge. I’m not going to say bad things will not happen to you, absolutely, but it’s not — you’re in his charge. He’ll take care of you. He’s taken care of me for almost 80 years.
Narrator: Next time on the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast, we hear the story of Paul Shol, a young man who is embarking on an incredible mission – and how he hopes to help others and inspire them with the hope he’s found in Jesus Calling.
Our featured passage from Jesus Calling for today’s show comes from the April 19th entry:
I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love. No matter how exemplary your behavior, the answer to that question will always be no. Your performance and My Love are totally different issues, which you need to sort out. I love you with an everlasting Love that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions. I have clothed you in My robe of righteousness, and this is an eternal transaction: Nothing and no one can reverse it. Therefore, your accomplishment as a Christian has no bearing on My Love for you. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed. Your limited human perspective and the condition of your body, with its mercurial variations, distort your evaluations. Bring your performance anxiety to Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.
For more information on how to get involved with The Journey Home Project, please visit www.thejourneyhomeproject.org. Look for Charlie Daniels’ new record “Nighthawk,” which releases August 26, 2016.