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Charlie Daniels Credits God for 60-Year Success Story

Grammy-winning country music star, Charlie Daniels, discusses his faith and his 60-year career. Read Transcript

Oh, he's sold millions of albums.

One of the most popular--

just got inaugurated into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

And it's such a pleasure to have a dear friend back with us

on the 700 Club.

Charlie Daniels.


God bless you, man.

God bless you, sir.

Good to be with you today.

Thank you very much.

Well, I'm so glad to see you.

Been a while.


Now, listen, you started, though-- you didn't know

anything about music, did you?

No, sir, I didn't.

I don't-- I still, to this day, don't read music.

I never had lessons.


Yeah, no.

I had a friend--

it was funny--

I had a friend that I had no idea had a guitar.

I don't know where he got it from, or how long he had it.


I went up to his house one day, and he was playing.

He knew about 2 and 1/2 chords, literally--


--and I got him to teach me those.

And then we kind of started from there.

And I've been at it ever since.

But I still never took time to learn how to read music.

Well, did you--

I mean, how did you pattern yourself?

Was it the Grand Ole Opry, or something like that?

Yeah, basically, the people in the Grand Ole Opry.

And I got into bluegrass for a good little while,

Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, and those people.

I went through different phases.

But you know, when I was a kid, Pat, radio stations

were not formatted for one kind of music.

They played all kinds of music.

They'd start off in the morning with country.

Then they'd play something for the ladies that were home.

And then the kids come home, they'd

play whatever the popular music of the day was.

And I was exposed to so many different kinds

of music coming up.

And I loved it all.

So when I sat down and started doing my music, I started--

I just mixed it all together.

So that's kind of what my style is,

is a little bit of everything.

Call it eclectic, whatever.

Well, you started writing music--

when did you start writing?

You've written a lot of songs.

I basically-- I started writing pretty early on, but I

wrote some just really bad, trite-type stuff, you know,

until I got with a guy by the name of Bob Johnston.


And I started writing with him.

And if anybody has ever mentored me,

he was the guy that brought me to Nashville,

and spent a lot of time with me about,

you know, writing and not settling for less

than what you were capable of.

We spent hours and hours together writing songs.

And so I got seriously involved in really writing about 1962.

What's the secret of having a hit

song, a really popular song?

I can't say.

If I did, I'd do it all the time.

[LAUGHTER] But the secret remains unfound.

All you can do is the very best you can, you know.

You just have to go for it.

If you've got something you feel good about,

you just-- you can't make the people buy it.

You can't make the radio stations play it.

But you just put it out there and hope.

You know, and that's basically--

What was the big breakthrough you had with writing?

The big break for me, right, was in 1962.

Bob and myself wrote a song called "It Hurts Me"

that Elvis Presley recorded in 1963.


That was my first intro into anything

to do with national hits, and that sort of thing.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, it's a big deal, if Elvis took your song!

Oh, it was a huge deal, you know.

It was a single.

It came out as a single.

It was on the flip side of a movie song he

had called "Kissing Cousins."

But it made no difference in those days

with Elvis, because they'd play one side for a while

and they'd flip it over onto the other side.

So it has been--

it was my entree into the lots of, you know, different-- oh,

you wrote an Elvis Presley song!

Yeah, man!


Of course, some of the others--

you had a couple other really, really big hits.

We had a song called "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

in 1979 that has been our signature song, you could say,

for all this time.

Every time we play, we have to play that song because it's

what people expect us to do.

But we've had others, too.

We've done somewhere around 20 million albums, I guess,


20 million is a lot of people buying a lot of records.

I've been at it a long time, Pat.


What's it like traveling around the bus?

The early days, you had a broken down van,

and you were all smelly together in that bus.

Yeah, yeah.

PAT ROBERTSON: It was hard.

Well, it was.

Well, I first started traveling in a car, you know.

And as we got more instruments and everything,

we had to add the trailer.

And then we got a van.

And, you know, you got six people and, you know,

we had two vans for a while, one for the instruments

and one for us.

But then one day, we got an old scenic cruiser bus.

When I say old, I mean, something

that Greyhound had already put five million miles on it,

or whoever got a hold of it.

And it broke down every 1,200 miles.

But we loved it.

It had bunks in it.

It had been outfitted for a band to play in.

And we could hold the instruments down in the bay.

And that was my first introduction to a bus.

And I've been traveling in a bus.

Of course, we've upgraded a few times since then.

Sure, sure.

I've traveled a bus ever since then.

My wife and myself travel on a bus now, together.

It's home for us.

You do, the two of you?

We're able to be together, yeah.

1983, my son started college.

She's been traveling with me on a bus outfitted for us.

She's been driving me ever since.

By the way, I was married 53 years yesterday.

PAT ROBERTSON: Congratulations, Charlie!


PAT ROBERTSON: 53-- and your wife has put up with all that?

CHARLIE DANIELS: She's put up with it.

And now, you're saying it facetiously, but it's true.


What a sweet lady.


You know, you have been known for your faith, though,

your belief in God.

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia",

that was sort of Christian-based.

How long have you known the Lord?

You know, I wrote a chapter in my book about my faith.

And it was the hardest chapter for me to write,

because I really did a lot of soul

searching, and looking at what I really, honestly, believed in--

what my basic core beliefs were, and how I came to them.

I was awfully confused about salvation for a long time.

I went to a lot of different churches.

I went to-- and one of the basic things

that I stress is I heard so much about the condemnation of God,

and so little about the love.

And I think a lot of real well-meaning pastors think

a lot of times, because they are way ahead of the curve

themselves, and they think that people know all about salvation

and how it applies to them personally when they walk

through the door--

and a lot of people don't.

I didn't.

I believe that.

All my life, I heard, Jesus died for your sins.

I believed it, but I didn't know why.

I didn't know why it was necessary.

So I decided, several years ago, I'm

going to sit down and read the Bible for myself.

I'm going to take my opinion that I come up with,

and people like yourself whose opinion

I respect and listen to.

And I'm going to walk that lonesome valley,

as the song goes, and work out my own salvation.

It's just been a kind--

I never had a Damascus road experience.

It's just been a kind of a recognizing the truth,

you know.

And things keep--

I'm a work in progress.

I mean, things keep dawning on me.

But, like, when I sit down and read, you know,

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus,

and you believe in your heart that God raised him

from the dead, you will be saved--

PAT ROBERTSON: Yeah, yeah.

--and-- that, and John 3:16.

And I just constantly say those things to myself.

And I believe that Jesus Christ was the only begotten

Son of God, that he came to earth, that he

was nailed to a cross for my sins,

that he left here, he ascended--

PAT ROBERTSON: He's coming back.

--and he's going to descend one of these days.

He's going come back to pick us up--

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, that's--

--take us to a better place.

That's about as thorough as you could get.

And you wrote something in your book,

don't count the empty seats.

Talk about that.

Well, everybody wants to know about that title.

When you're a young musician, and you're just starting out,

you play anywhere, for anything, to anybody,

if you're serious about it.

And I was serious about it.

And you're going to have a lot of empty seats,

because nobody knows who you are.

You know, you'll be playing somewhere,

and a few people will come see you just out of curiosity.

And if you go in and say, gosh, I got a half house tonight,

I'm just going to take it easy, you know--

that's the wrong attitude.

That is a disastrous attitude.

You play-- you're not concerned with the empty seats.

You're concerned with the seats that have people in them.

And if you please them, if you do a good enough show for them,

the next time you come back, they'll come back.

They'll bring somebody else with them, and so on.

It kind of reaches an exponential factor.

And the first thing you know, you're drawing crowds.

You've built a following.

And that's what that's all about.

Don't never look at the empty seats,

I always look at the full seats.

Entertain them.

PAT ROBERTSON: I like that.

What's next for you?

You've got into the Hall of Fame.

You've sold 20 million albums.

That's a lot of work!

What are you doing next?

I'm still doing the same thing.

PAT ROBERTSON: Same thing?

I never knew I could write, Pat,

up until the last few years.

It's a talent God gave me that I didn't really know about.

I mean, I knew I could put words together for a song.

One day, one of the guys at work with me

said, you write story songs.

Why don't you write stories?

And I got to thinking, I think I'll give that a shot.

So I walked-- I was on the road one day.

I walked into a motel room and started writing short stories.

And it just kind of went on from then.

And I wrote this, on this book here, for 20 years.

But I could never find a place to stop it.

I was in my 70's before I was ever

invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, you know.

But interesting things kept happening to me,

kept happening.

So I kept writing, and writing.

But when I found out I was going to be inducted into the Country

Music Hall of Fame, I thought, what

a great place to pause this.

What a great place to, you know, stop.

So I went to the ceremony that night, was inducted, went home.

The next morning, I sat down and wrote

my impressions of the induction, and what it meant to me,

and everything.

I kind of back-wrote to where I was.

And there it was.

PAT ROBERTSON: Here's a book.

Finally finished.


"Never Look at the Empty Seat," Charlie Daniels.

What a towering figure in country music,

and a towering Christian who we appreciate and love, Charlie,

you are the greatest.

God bless you, buddy.

God bless you, sir.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.


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