Charlie Daniels Talks Bob Dylan with Rocking God’s House
It’s hard to believe that, some years ago, the great Charlie Daniels (#CharlieDaniels) was once a working musician not at the superstar caliber we know and cherish today. But even in those days, Charlie’s career was not too shabby, playing on three albums by legendary singer and songwriter Bob Dylan (#BobDylan), starting with Nashville Skyline, and then Self-Portrait and New Morning. Although Charlie Daniels obviously stands on his own two feet, and his talent and legendary songwriting brought him to where he is today, playing with Dylan probably didn’t hurt either. Bob Dylan has given the world many musical gifts with his songs, but perhaps another great musical gift that he helped bring to the world is Charlie Daniels.
In light of all that, I personally found it quite refreshing and inspiring that Charlie Daniels decided to record an album as a tribute to the legacy of Bob Dylan. The album Off the Grid: Doin’ It Dylan, which I had the opportunity to review on vinyl (for free — full disclosure), has Charlie Daniels digging deep into his creative psyche to reinterpret monumental classics in a fresh way. I’m pleased to report that he does true justice to one of the greatest songwriters of any generation.
Daniels was already a die-hard Dylan fan in 1969 when he received a phone call from producer Bob Johnston with an offer that would help change the career of Charlie Daniels forever. Johnston told Daniels that the guitarist who was supposed to play on Nashville Skyline could not make the first session, and he asked if Daniels could fill in. Daniels jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with one of his idols. And now, many years later, he’s come full circle with this Dylan tribute album that includes the following songs:
Charlie Daniels, Off The Grid – Doin’ It Dylan Track Listing:
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)”
Has Bob Dylan heard the album yet?
I think he has. I talked to him about it on the phone; he called me not too long after we had released it. And I told him we did an album of his stuff, and I hoped he liked it. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I don’t know if that is good or bad. [laughs]
What made you decide to cut it on vinyl?
You know, that is the first vinyl record our band has down in over 25 years. It just seemed to lend itself, being a Dylan album. We decided to give it a shot and had some pressed up.
You played on his album Nashville Skyline; how was that experience?
It was all the good adjectives you can think about putting to it. I mean, it was incredible. I had been a big Bob Dylan fan going in before I had ever worked with him in the studio, and I felt also, this album, this Nashville Skyline album, when we got into it, I thought it was a special album for Bob Dylan. I still feel that way about it. It was kind of like a departure for him, different from anything he had ever done at the time. It was an honor to be a part of it. I was only supposed to do one session on the album, and Dylan liked what I was playing, so he kept me around for all the rest of it, the Nashville Skyline, and I did a couple of other albums with him too.
The song “Gotta Serve Somebody” was my favorite on your new album. What is your take on the song and the meaning?
Well, it’s just obvious what it means: you gotta serve somebody. Maybe the Devil, maybe the Lord, but there are only two entities you can serve, that’s what they are — which one are you going to serve, I mean it’s pretty plain spoken actually.
What is your favorite song on the album, and do you play any of them live?
Right now we are doing “Tangled Up in Blue” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” live. But I will probably change up on that. I have only got room for, in the set, for three of them. I have got certain songs I have to play because people have a perfect right to expect them. We play “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It” — those songs that people have a perfect right to expect. So, I only have room to do a couple of the Dylan tunes. Right now, we are only doing those two, and I may start doing others like “You Gotta Serve Somebody” before too long.
Can you give us some insight on your recording of “My Home” for the Macy’s 4th of July special?
Actually, we were contacted by the powers that be, whoever does that particular event, and they said we have got a song we would like you to record. It is a patriotic tune called “My Home,” and we would like for you to record it for our 4th of July celebration. So we said send it on down and we will see if it is a song that fits us and if we could do a good job on it. So they did, and we went to the studio and cut it. I didn’t write it, I just recorded it. It’s a patriotic 4th of July song.