Bob Dylan gave the world many musical gifts with songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” But the greatest musical gift he gave us may very well be . . . Charlie Daniels.
Daniels was already a Dylan fan back in 1969 and working as a session musician here in Nashville when he got a call from producer Bob Johnston. Johnston said the guitarist who was suppose to play on Nashville Skyline, the project Dylan was working on, couldn’t make the first session and he wanted to know if Daniels could fill in. Daniels jumped at the chance. Dylan was so happy with Daniels that when the other guitarist became available he said he wanted Daniels to stay for the whole session instead.
That boost from a musical legend helped to give life to yet another musical legend, Charlie Daniels. Nashville Skyline went on to be a huge success for Dylan spawning hits like “Just Like A Woman,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
Daniels new album, Off The Grid–Doing It Dylan is a tribute to Dylan and the album Nashville Skyline with that unmistakable ‘Long Haired Country Boy’ sound that Daniels has made so recognizable.
Nashville.com sat down with Daniels in his Twin Pines studio to talk about Dylan and the new project. Here’s what he had to say:
Nash: What was it like getting that call from producer Bob Johnston to play on a Dylan album?
Daniels: Bob Johnston was the guy that brought me to Nashville and I was such a big fan of Dylan I asked him if he could get me in on the session just so I could always say I had worked for Bob Dylan. So he brought me in for the 2:00 session. When I was packing up to leave Dylan wanted me to stay, which was probably one of the biggest shots in the arm I’ve ever had. Nashville, New York and L.A., all of the music towns are very competitive. It’s hard to get noticed. So to have someone, no less a Bob Dylan, say ‘I like your stuff and I want you on my session,’ that kind of stuff encourages you. So it was a big deal to me.
Nash: It must have been intimidating at the time. Was Dylan easy to work with?
Daniels: He was very easy to work with. He’d just pick up his guitar and start playing and everybody else would fall in and start playing. I was hanging on every word and every note and I really wanted to be a part of what he was doing. Once I got to the point that I realized he wanted me to do what I do, and that I had the freedom to go off that was it. I did kind of a crazy guitar part on Country Pie if you ever listen to it.
Nash: Did you call Bob to get his blessing on this project?
Daniels: I did not talk to him about it. I just went ahead an did it. I talked to him on the phone the other day. I told him that I had done it and that I was going to send it to him and to let me know what he thought of it.
Nash: Dylan was kind of a political guy in the fact that he sang about current events and you’re kind of a political guy too. Your “Soap box” page is very popular. Do you think that has hurt or helped your career?
Daniels: My career and my feelings are two different things and what I write on my “Soap box”. We’ve talked about music up until now and I spoke to you as Charlie Daniels the entertainer. Now we’re going into Charlie Daniels the private citizen. Basically when I sit down to write a “Soap box” I’m speaking as Charlie Daniels the private citizen and I have as much of a right to comment as anybody else. It’s not a part of my music although write songs sometime that reflect my opinion. It’s from my 77 years of seeing things come and go. I look at everything in a retrospective way because history keeps repeating its self. I’m more concerned about this country now than since back in the days when there was a serious nuclear threat.
Nash: What’s your favorite song on this album?
Daniels: My gosh that’s hard for me to say. One of my favorite arrangements on the album is ‘You Gotta Serve Somebody.’ We’re a very musical band. The way we do music around here is, we come in and sit down, my five guys, and we pull a song out. And we start trying things. Somebody will say ‘let’s try this’ or ‘no that’s not working let’s try that’ or ‘let’s move that piano part over here.’ And that’s where these ideas come from. It’s like electricity popping around in the room. It’s a great way to make music. We start with the music on everything. I use to drive producers crazy because I would write whole songs that were all instrumental. I’ve literally written lyrics right before I recorded the songs.
Nash: Do you have any special shows planned to promote this album.
Daniels: Not at the present time. I’m adding a couple songs to the set but it could happen.
Nash: Thanks for talking to us.
Daniels: Thank you, good to see you again.
‘Off the Grid – Doin’ It Dylan’ will be available on April 1. See the complete track listing below.
1. ‘Tangled Up in Blue’
2. ‘The Times They Are a Changin’’
3. ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’
4. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’
5. ‘I Shall Be Released’
7. ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’
8. ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’
9. ‘Just Like a Woman’
10. ‘Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)’