Charlie Daniels remembers the Ragged Old Flag

I was standing off stage as a long list of stars were called out and introduced by Country Music legend Charlie Daniels awaiting my name to ring out from the mouth of the man who told the story of Johnny beating the old devil in the fiddling showdown.

It was especially an honor for me to stand in front of those attending playing my fiddle as he backed me on guitar. Few musical performers epitomize the American spirit with more passion and fervor than the now Country Music Hall of Fame member.

The singer, who has sung of his unabashed patriotism time in and time out during his career, is showcasing his love of the Red, White, and Blue once again in his latest recording that will be available for sale digitally on July 4th via iTunesAmazonGoogle Play among other digital platforms.

It was my old friend and supporter Johnny Cash who made “Ragged Old Flag” a standard. Written and recorded by “The Man in Black,” the song hit No. 31 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in 1974.

Daniels recorded a stirring version of the song which still garners airplay during the summer months on Classic Country stations nationwide, particularly around the Fourth of July. Recording this song allowed Charlie to combine two of his biggest passions – his country and his love of Johnny Cash. Charlie is joined on this track by Mark “Oz” Geist, Benghazi Warrior/Survivor and co-author of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.”

“These lyrics are just as timely today as they were when Johnny originally recorded them over four decades ago,” Daniels said. “The song demonstrates the passion and the love that we all should have for this country – and the freedoms that we enjoy with it. Of course, it is always a joy to record a song written by the great Johnny Cash. He was an American original, and someone that I consider myself humbled and honored to call friend. Good songs, such as his, continue to remain in style.”

The Grand Ole Opry star, turned 80 last fall but he is not slowing down in the slightest. He continues to tour across the country, and will release a new book, Never Look At The Empty Seats on October 24. The book will document his legendary career, as well as several of his many trips abroad in support of the United States Military.
With a career spanning nearly 60 years and exceeding 20 million in sales worldwide Charlie Daniels is the quintessential southerner with a healthy dose of wild west cowboy. For decades, he has connected with his millions of fans in the varying genres of music that reflect his steadfast refusal to label his music as anything other than the “Charlie Daniels Band” sound — music that is now sung around the fire at 4-H Club and scout camps, helped elect an American President, and been popularized on a variety of radio formats. Having celebrated multiple GRAMMY® Awards, CMA Awards, ACM Awards, BMI Awards, GMA Dove Awards, CCMA Awards, his list of accolades is broad; the latest being the newest inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Several of his albums have been RIAA Certified Multi-Platinum® and he has achieved a platinum-selling single in his iconic fiddle-ridden hit, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” An outspoken American patriot and strong supporter of the U.S. military, his talked-about Volunteer Jam concerts are world-famous musical extravaganzas featuring artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent, Trace Adkins, Alabama and others, all on one stage for one purpose – to raise funds for our U.S. military. Daniels 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam in 2016 raised funds for The Journey Home Project, a non-profit veterans’ assistance organization which he co-founded. For more information on Charlie Daniels, please visit www.charliedaniels.com.

Nashville puts Bill and Jimmy in bronze

From my earliest days in country music International Country Music Fan Fair was an event that many country music personalities loved so they could get up close and personal with fans from around the world. The event is now called CMA Music Festival, and it was appropriate that during this year’s event a couple of the early stars of the Grand Ole Opry were honored during this week with unveilings of bronzes – Hall of Famers Bill Monroe and Little Jimmy Dickens.

I knew both of these men, I first met Jimmy at an event at Country Music Fan Fair and I performed for and with Bill Monroe numerous times throughout my career at this wonderful event. Both are featured in various volumes of my Encouragers book series.

Outside of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs unveiled a newly installed life-size bronze statue dedicated to his musical mentor, Bill Monroe.

“I don’t know if you ever get another Bill Monroe in a century,” Skaggs said. “There’s not a lot of people that I know of who could be cited as creating a whole new genre of music, but he did. He had the ear to hear it, the talent to play it and the heart to keep it alive because he was strong, he was powerful.

“I don’t know any person who could have withstood, pushed through and made it like him. He had music in his veins. It was the thing that pushed him so much,” he said. “It wasn’t just to make a living. It was to get something out of him and take to people that he loved, and that was the fans that loved this music. I have traveled all over the world into places you would think that bluegrass music would never make it to … and you meet someone there that actually plays the music. So this music has totally gone around the world.”

James Monroe, son of the late bluegrass icon was also on-hand to say a few words about his father.

Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, was a gifted player, singer, and songwriter. The genre takes its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys, named for Monroe’s home state of Kentucky.

Monroe formed the first edition of the Blue Grass Boys in Atlanta, Ga. The band eventually featured more than 150 performers including Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt performing career spanned 69 years before he died on Sept. 9, 1996. I am extremely honored to be one of those 150 Blue Grass Boys playing both fiddle and bass contributing to this legacy.

In October 1939, Monroe successfully auditioned for a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry impressing Opry founder George D. Hay with his energetic stage performance – he soon started recording and developing what would eventually become his signature style with fast tempos, instrumental virtuosity, and musical innovation. His recordings have become classics including “Blue Grass Breakdown,” “My Rose of Old Kentucky,” and Monroe’s most famous composition, “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Monroe, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, remained a mainstay at the Opry. There he settled into a role as a musical patriarch influencing generations of young musicians including Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, and the Oak Ridge Boys.

In addition to Monroe’s dedication, country star Brad Paisley unveiled a bronze statue of the late Little Jimmy Dickens. WSM radio personality Bill Cody hosted the ceremony.

Dickens was born James Cecil Dickins, but was world famous as “Little Jimmy.” He was known for his humorous novelty songs, his small size (4’11”), and flashy wardrobe, but his contributions to country music were far greater than his diminutive stature. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

Little Jimmy Dickens was a beloved fixture at the Opry, on stage and backstage. He passed away on Jan. 2, 2015. Before his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Dickens recorded many novelty songs including “Country Boy,” “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” “I’m Little but I’m Loud,” and his biggest hit, the No. 1 “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”  His song “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)” inspired Hank Williams to nickname him Tater.

Over the years, Dickens made appearances in music videos by close friend and fishing buddy, fellow West Virginia native Brad Paisley. Along with joining on bonus comedy tracks on several of Paisley’s albums, Dickens also joined Paisley and his CMA Awards co-host Carrie Underwood in several show monologues. Upon Dickens’ death in 2015, Paisley lamented the loss of his hero and “the best friend a human being could ask for” and has performed numerous tributes to Dickens’ life and career.

“This was a man who was honing his craft before Hank Williams, who we sort of credit as the father of modern country music in many ways,” said Paisley during the unveiling today. “He saw everything in those decades that he stood on that stage, like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Garth Brooks. By the time Jimmy left us, he had become the Grand Ole Opry. On a night that he wasn’t there, you were cheated out of something and he knew that. He realized when he was well enough to do it, he went. He knew that he owed it to the younger generation that wanted to see him, it was another lesson in how you entertain people. He gave them everything that he had on that stage and in this building for many many years. So I think it’s really appropriate that he’s going to be one of the statues that’s a permanent reminder of what we should be in this building.”

This year, the Ryman Auditorium celebrates its 125th anniversary since originally opening its doors in 1892. On July 27, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder will perform at the historic venue as part of its annual “Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman” concert series.  Tickets are on-sale now at the box office and ryman.com.

He came from Alabama with a banjo on his knee

 

James Watson appears on stage in at Vines Bluegrass Barn in Woodland, Ala. in the early 2012. (Courtesy James Watson Collection) 

James Watson performs Foggy Mountain Top with the Golden River Grass in 1985 on PBS show “Tonight at Ferlinghetti’s.”

https://youtu.be/8-ofvpGHSlk

I stood outside the front door of the Quattlebaum Funeral Home in Roanoke, Ala. and watched the hearse pull from the door, drive down the hill and turn left towards Rock Mills. About a dozen musicians had just fulfilled the wishes of country folk banjo legend James Watson sending him off with some of the finest banjo pickin’, singin’ and great stories of his life.

I aimed on loading up and starting back on the three-hour trip back home as soon as the procession was out of sight, but a missed turn carried me right by the cemetery in neighboring Rock Mills, and just before I drove by the bottom fell out of the sky and as I looked at those gathered around the tent, I just thought that God gave one last massive shedding of tears as they lowered one of the men that created such happiness with the talents God shared with him.
James was 81 and shortly after his passing I was called and texted that my former Golden River Grass band mate had finished his time among us. And what a time it was, he had appeared multiple times at America’s National Folk Festival, National Black Arts Festival, 1982 World’s Fair, 1996 Olympics, colleges, numerous bluegrass festivals and folk festivals. He was often seen on PBS in shows such as “Tonight at Ferlinghetti’s” and the Alan Lomax production “The Appalachian Journey.”
All of this from a man from an Alabama mill village who became a painter by trade but whose passion was music.
He became known as the hard-drivin’ musical sideman spending over 20 years of his career with the last old time Georgia fiddle band to be recognized as part of that unique historical segment of the country music genre – Doodle and the Golden River Grass. The band which began as a square dance band in 1963, became a popular folk act featuring comedy, Appalachian folk songs and upbeat tunes centered around several fiddlers – Seals Hicks, Bill Kee, Paul Wallace, Randall Franks, and Jerry Wesley; John “Doodle” Thrower’s harmonica; and beginning in the 1970s, Watson’s clawhammer banjo. Other long-running band members were C.J. Clackum (guitar), Wesley Clackum (guitar and mandolin), the late Lynn Elliott (guitar), and the late Gene Daniell (bass).
His banjo-playing uncle, Jack Edmondson of Wedowee, Ala. was responsible for Watson becoming a banjo player. Watson began his professional entertainment career at age 11 in 1947 with fiddler with Pappy Lee (Farmer) and the Chillun’ moving from banjo to play guitar appearing on WELR in Roanoke. As the children grew, the group became Pappy Lee and the Playboys in the 1950s. In his later career, the band Randolph County was among the acts with which he performed.
James said in anApril 2017 interview that he is amazed where his banjo took him.

“I have played for so many wonderful folks, been places an old country boy from an Alabama cotton mill village could never imagine,” he said. “I knew that there was only one place for my banjo playing and that was with Doodle and the Golden River Grass. Our sound made people happy, whether we were on stage or in the parking lot jamming. It’s amazing to think of millions of folks we reached.”

James Watson (left) and Grandpa Jones appear on stage at a

bluegrass festival near Dover, Delaware in 1984. (Courtesy James Watson Collection)

Watson also said he was so honored that so many of his music heroes became lifelong friends.
One of those heroes was Earl Scruggs, who James met by chance in 1964, when he took a trip to Nashville, drove to Scruggs’ home and found him standing by the mailbox.
“He turned out to be one of the friendliest fellows I’ve ever met,” he said.
Watson said that visit gained him a tone ring from Scrugg’s own banjo that added to the amazing sound which came from his 1950 Gibson bowtie banjo. On the same trip, Watson met the King of Country Music Roy Acuff and Grand Ole Opry star Bashful Brother Oswald.
He said the two gave him a chance to play “Shout Little Lula” on another hero’s banjo, a museum piece of early WSM star Uncle Dave Macon.
His unique stylings drew the attention of numerous performers with whom he made major concert appearances including Country Music Hall of Famer Grandpa Jones who often asked Watson to join him for banjo duets.

James Watson (second from left) appears on stage with the Golden River Grass from left, Randall Franks, Gene Daniell, Doodle Thrower and Wesley Clackum in 1990 at the Jekyll Island Bluegrass Festival in Georgia. (Courtesy Randall Franks Media: Ronald Stuckey)

Watson was often the punch line of the jokes shared by Golden River Grass front man “Doodle” Thrower, who died in 1994.
“Doodle was amazing at working a crowd, he brought a smile to everyone’s face and shared the audience’s love with all of us and especially with me with his jokes,” he said. James Watson (second from left) appears on stage with the Golden River Grass from left, Randall Franks, Gene Daniell, Doodle Thrower and Wesley Clackum in 1990 at the Jekyll Island Bluegrass Festival in Georgia. (Courtesy Randall Franks Media: Ronald Stuckey)“We both grew up playing those old time tunes and when we got to going, me and him would stand for hours having a good time. It just made people’s hearts want to dance. After Doodle went on, while the music was still there, it took so much away from what we did, it wasn’t the Golden River Grass no more.”
Watson’s recording discography includes 17 albums with the Golden River Grass including the his “Mountain Clawhammer Way Down in the Country” released by Attieram in 1986 and my own Golden River Fiddlin’. Other collections including his work are the Grammy ® winning “The Art of Field Recording Vol. I” (2007), Vol. II (2009), and Sampler (2006) from Dust-to-Digital.
My fellow bandmate Wesley Clackum and I are working with Grammy-winning engineer Michael Graves to restore and compile a Golden River Grass anthology including James’ popular banjo release.
James had an amazing ability to create a rhythm that allowed a fiddler to just go anywhere musically they could reach while he never veered or slowed his steam – ‘no dragging’ as he would say. He was original in what he did, always sharing an intensity and concentration that thrilled the audience. There was no one in folk, bluegrass or country who brought to the stage what he did.
His career is honored with a museum exhibit in his hometown of Roanoke, Ala. at the Randolph County Historical Museum. He also had a feature exhibit in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Ga. from 1996-2010 and was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Share America Foundation, Inc., (www.shareamericafoundation.org) P.O. Box 42, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 30755 for its Appalachian music scholarship.

American Grandstand is sure to please traditional country fans

Bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent is teaming up with a country music friend of mine Daryle Singletary for an upcoming duets album, American Grandstand, from Upper Management Music, set for release July 7. The project delivers real traditional country music with a unique American twist.

“I’ve always loved singing with Daryle Singletary. He’s one of the greatest singers in this generation of country music,” said Vincent. “It’s so fun to sing with someone who challenges me as a singer. The songs were given great thought, along with one that was totally unexpected. It’s one of the best projects I’ve ever been part of. I am so proud of this recording, and I cannot wait for the world to hear our wonderful creation, American Grandstand.”

The lead single, “One,” offers the very first taste of American Grandstand. The slow love song takes fans on a musical journey. The track may sound familiar, as it was previously made famous by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette, whose demanding vocal duets helped propel both acts to superstardom. Singletary and Vincent first performed “One” together at the legendary Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. Due to the overwhelming response, the pair chose to add the track to American Grandstand.

Other standout songs include the title track, which was written by Vincent. When Vincent and Singletary were first trying to think of a title, American Grandstand stood out, which by definition is “to behave or speak in a way that is intended to impress people and to gain public approval.” This isn’t Vincent’s first venture into country music, as her previous Grammy-nominated studio album Only Me featured a combination of six traditional country songs and six bluegrass tracks, featuring “We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds,” which is also included on American Grandstand.

“Rhonda and I have been singing together since my first CD on Giant Records in 1994. I’ve been a fan of Rhonda’s singing before that, but since then for sure and it’s obvious as she has sung on most of my Indie records as a background vocalist or a duet partner,” said Daryle Singletary. “If you love traditional country music, and remember songs originally sung by well-known duet partners like George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens, this is a must-have CD that we are extremely excited about.”

Fans will have the chance to experience both Singletary and Vincent together as they play select shows this year. For more information, visit http://rhondavincent.com/americangrand.