Smokin' bow

The Charlie Daniels Band in Shippensburg

The Charlie Daniels Band in Shippensburg

April 06, 2006|by JULIE GREENE

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Sometimes when Charlie Daniels' bow is flying back and forth it appears as if smoke is emanating from the fiddle strings.

It's just rosin. The bow doesn't generate that much heat, Daniels said in a recent telephone interview with The Herald-Mail.

However, he does go through bows rather quickly.

"I beat them up, tear them up and get another one," said Daniels, 69. Some bows he had re-haired and others he gave away to charity.

"My technique is all wrong for playing. I mash too hard on the strings, break hairs," he said.

A broken hair could catch under his finger and throw his playing off, but he's got no time to pull it off. Instead, he holds the bow behind his back and someone brings him another bow.

Those lucky enough to get tickets to Saturday's sold-out show at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center will get to see just how fast Daniels' fingers fly on his fiddle.


In its inaugural season, the center is hosting a variety of acts to satisfy different tastes in the region, said Jeffrey Sommer, the Luhrs Center's director of marketing and administrative services. The acts include country, jazz, pop, classical, dance and theater.

"I think The Charlie Daniels Band really crosses over into different genres as well. They are a little bit country. They're Southern rock. They're bluegrass. They're folk," Sommer said.

The band won a Grammy in 1979 for best country vocal performance by a group or duo for "Devil Went Down to Georgia."

In that song, the devil duels with a fellow fiddler by the name of Johnny for the latter's soul.

Johnny wins.

Is Daniels supposed to be Johnny?

"Not necessarily. I never had any roles in mind when I did that," Daniels said from his home outside Mount Juliet, Tenn.

"That song came about a unique way," he recalls.

With some songs, he holds onto an idea or a lyric until it reaches fruition. It took 14 years for a lyric to make its way into the song "Billy the Kid."

Not so with "Devil Went Down to Georgia."

The band was recording and needed a fiddle song, so they went into rehearsal and wrote "Devil."

"Wherever it came from I don't know," he said.

The song stirred some debate last fall when the director of a Prince William County, Va., high school marching band pulled the song from the band's playlist, according to an article by The Washington Post. The song was pulled after someone wrote to the local newspaper wondering how a song about the devil could be played at school events given the separation of church and state.

Daniels doesn't hold any hard feelings against the band director.

"I think it's their business to do what they want to do," he said.

"It's a shame that they spent a lot of time on it and didn't get to do it," he said of the band members.

Daniels wrote about the issue at his Web site - just one of the ways he interacts with his fans.

Frequently he posts his opinions on his "Soap Box" page at the band's Web site,, and invites feedback.

He also meets fans before he performs, and he has set aside time in Shippensburg to greet contest winners, fan club members and personal guests.

Daniels holds an annual fan club gathering during the Country Music Association Music Festival and tries to award Century Club belt buckles personally to fans who have attended 100 of the band's concerts.

In April 2005 the band performed for U.S. troops in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

Daniels, who has performed for soldiers in Korea, Greenland and Bosnia, said that was the first time he'd been in an active war zone.

The helicopter they were in over Baghdad, Iraq, was hit at least once by small arms fire, Daniels said, though he didn't realize at the time that's what it was.

"It never bothered me because I thought it was maneuvering," he said.

"That's the reality of what these kids face over there every day," Daniels said.

If you go ...

WHAT: The Charlie Daniels Band

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 8

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

TICKETS: The show is sold out.

MORE: For more information, call 1-717-477-7469 or go to

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