By Vernell Hackett
[dropcap size=small]C[/dropcap] Daniels is a very busy man. His memoir, “Never Look At The Empty Seats,” was released the end of 2017, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely check it out.
The entertainer starts out 2018 with Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute to Charlie on March 7 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The event is one of Music City’s most loved events, and everybody tries to snag a ticket to see who Daniels will bring to the show this time. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will go to a great cause, The Journey Home Project, a non-profit founded by Daniels and his manager, David Corlew, to help Veterans.
There was a time when the artists included a lot of surprises, and this year will be no exception. Daniels has released many who will be in the all-star lineup for next week, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Alison Krauss, Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top, Blackberry Smoke, Bobby Bare, Chris Janson, Chris Young, Chuck Leavell, Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Justin Moore, Lee Brice, Ricky Skaggs, Sara Evans, The Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, and of course, Charlie and his super talented group of musicians. The event will be hosted by Storme Warren.
Charlie had no idea when he held his first Jam that it would go on for 20 years! That first Jam was held in War Memorial Auditorium, which seats less than 1,000 people. Bridgestone Arena seats 20,000 and the music shakes the rafters as guests perform alone and then are joined by Charlie for the traditional Jam portion of their show. The audience will be treated to never-before-seen encounters among the musicians who show up for the extravaganza.
You can read the entire history of the Jam in Daniels’ book, “Never Look At The Empty Seats.” The story of Daniels’ travels down the entertainment highway stars with his childhood days in North Carolina and continues through his celebrity status in Nashville. The book is filled with great stories about what it is like to make the numerous transitions from a guy who loves music to the guy who makes a career out of what he loves.
Daniels admits writing the book was not the easiest thing he has ever done. “I wrote on this thing for 20 years,” the singer says. “It wasn’t solid writing, you understand. When I felt like it, I’d sit down and write. The problem was, I couldn’t find a place to end it. I didn’t get invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry ’til I was 72, and interesting things kept happening and I kept writing. When I found out I was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, I thought, ‘What a great place to end this thing’.”
The day after Daniels was inducted as the newest member of the prestigious Hall, the highest honor someone in country music can achieve, he took pen to paper and finished his book. “I sat down and wrote the ending of the book – my impressions of what had happened the night before and how I felt throughout the period from when I knew until the actual induction ceremony. Suffice to say the book goes from my earliest memories to the time of induction into the Hall of Fame.”
“It’s a talent that I didn’t know I had. I backed into it when I started writing short stories and soap boxes. When it comes to the book, I tried to eliminate the impertinent stuff that wouldn’t matter to anyone. I tried to pare it down so all the stuff in it would be meaningful.”
While Daniels is the sole writer on the book, he didn’t hesitate to talk to family and friends if he needed additional information.
“I was fortunate enough to have people who had lived all of that with me, so if I happened to think of some incident, I could go to someone and say, ‘Do you remember the night that so and so happened and what is your memory of it?’ I would do this whenever there was something that happened, and I couldn’t remember it, and they were able to fill in and help me remember.
“I know there’s a lot of stuff people will read that they didn’t realize about me. I’m confident some people are gonna say, ‘I didn’t know you did this or that, like touring with Leonard Cohen.’ That’s the wonderful part about writing it, you are saying things they don’t know about.”
Anyone who knows Daniels appreciates that he has developed a deep faith, so it might surprise them that the hardest chapter for him to write was the one about his faith.
“I was so determined to get it right,” he explains. “I wanted to try to help clarify what I tried to do with ‘Simple Guy. ‘ I was so intent on it, saying exactly what I meant, it had to be just right ‘cause I couldn’t change it once it was out there.”
As one might suspect, his favorite story in the book is about his wife, Hazel. “My favorite story is the one when I first told Hazel I loved her. I was kinda able to relive that as I wrote it. It was such an important time in both of our lives.”
Hazel didn’t read the book until Daniels had written the last word because she wanted to read the book in its entirety.
“She seems to be really happy with it and I’m happy with that,” Daniels says. “I didn’t want a cowriter, I didn’t want anybody critiquing what I was doing ’til I was finished. I learned about records, that you don’t bring anyone in until you’re finished, because they can’t hear what you’re hearing. I was determined everything was going to be in my words.”
Daniels is celebrating his 60th year in music. With 64 albums under his belt, he is not ready to sell the bus.
“You think about it, and you just wonder ‘Where did time go?” It goes by before you know it. It’s a wonderful time, it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve got lot of deep friendships, people who are like family to me.
“It’s been a great ride, and I wanted to share it with the world. We’re just gonna … it’s 60 years, we’re gonna do it as long as can until the good Lord calls me home. I can’t imagine spending my life in any other way.”
Daniels will celebrate his 10th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on March 27 by performing on two Opry shows that evening. His induction in 2008 was hosted by friends and Opry members Marty Stuart and Connie Smith. On March 27, Daniels will be joined by Trace Adkins, Terri Clark and Lorrie Morgan as part of the celebration.