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Charlie Daniels still fit as a fiddle

Larry Woody • May 5, 2017 at 8:30 AM

As legions of fans of Charlie Daniels' furious fiddling can attest, taking it slow and easy is not his style.

So it's no surprise that the Mt. Juliet resident and Country Music Hall of Famer at age 80 continues to maintain a frantic schedule of concerts, public-service ads and energetic support of a variety of causes close to his heart -- from the military to the outdoors.

"I do it because I love it -- it's as simple as that," Daniels said recently from his Vermont getaway as he prepared for a May 6 concert at Talladega Superspeedway.

"Performing never gets old," said Daniels, who last year held over 100 concerts. "I enjoy it, and as long as the fans enjoy it I'll keep going. As for the public-service stuff, I've been extremely blessed, and I'd like to give something back."

The Talladega concert, on the eve of the Geico 500 NASCAR race, will mark Daniels' first trip to the Alabama track in over two decades. During his last visit he met racing legend Dale Earnhardt, and the two formed a natural bond.

"Dale had a reputation as a rough, tough driver," Daniels said. "He was called the 'Intimidator.' But off the track he was one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Somebody brought me over to meet him before the race that morning at Talladega, and as busy as he was, he dropped everything and spent several minutes talking with me. I immediately became a Dale Earnhardt fan."

Earnhardt perished in a Daytona 500 crash in 2001 and Daniels wrote and recorded a song, "The Intimidator," in his honor.

"It was my tribute to Dale and the Earnhardt family," Daniels said. "He was a special person and a special driver. He made an art of racing."

Daniels was born in Wilmington, N.C., "in the heart of stock car racing country," and has been a life-long fan of the sport.

"I grew up following drivers like Richard Petty," he said.

Over the years Daniels has performed at numerous racetracks, including ones at Bristol, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Memphis and Las Vegas. The May 6 concert in the infield of sprawling Talladega Superspeedway could be his biggest ever.

On top of a hectic performing schedule, Daniels finds time to lend support to a number of causes, such as a public-service TV ad for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

"I've always enjoyed the outdoors," he said. "I grew up hunting and fishing. In Tennessee we're blessed with some of the most beautiful outdoors anywhere, and I'm glad to help promote it. It's not just about hunting and fishing -- we can go hiking, camping, sight-seeing ... we have all kinds of things to choose from. The important thing is to get outdoors and enjoy them."

Daniels is a champion of the Second Amendment.

"I got my first gun when I was about 12," he said. "The first thing I was taught was safety -- to treat every gun as though it is loaded, and never point it at anything you don't intend to shoot. Those are the lessons we need to emphasize. A gun is not evil, it just has to be treated in a safe manner."

Another cause to which Daniels is deeply committed is support of the U.S. military and its soldiers and their families.

"I'll do anything I can to support the troops," he said. "They are a special breed, the finest young people in our society, and they make great sacrifices for the rest of us. I feel very beholding to them. We owe them a debt of gratitude and I feel honored whenever I'm in their presence."

That feeling is mutual, says Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch.

"Charlie Daniels is not only a great performer, he is a great American," Lynch says. "He is a true national treasure, and we're honored to have him at our track."

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