Forty Years and a Few Million Miles Ago - Soapbox Rewind
*NOTE* Charlie will be back with a new soapbox on Monday, in the meantime, enjoy this soapbox rewind on the 40th anniversary of the Volunteer Jam, and don't miss the broadcast premiere of VolJam XX on AXS TV Concerts Sunday night at 9C/10E. - TeamCDB
The Charlie Daniels Band had been nipping at the heels of major success for a while with a top ten single in 1973, "Uneasy Rider," and several albums that played on a lot of radio stations around the country and sold moderately well, but never crossed the threshold into the rarified air of gold or platinum.
By 1974 I had written several songs I felt were the best collection we had put together to date and as I took the band into rehearsal in preparation for going in the studio, I felt we had a real shot this time, a shot at garnering the kind of airplay that could push an album up the charts, generate significant sales and move our career up several notches.
Plus, we were hedging our bets this time. We would be going to Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia where so many bands had made hot albums and working with Paul Hornsby, a veteran musician and producer who had done such a great job of capturing the big and rowdy sound of The Marshall Tucker Band on record.
And we were adding a bonus; two live tracks; a song I had written called “No Place to Go” and the fabled fiddle tune that we had been performing live for years, “Orange Blossom Special.”
We set the recording dates in Macon and working with Paul Hornsby was every bit as rewarding as we had imagined. He made the band sound big, bad and energetic. I was ecstatic as we went back to Nashville to record the two live tracks.
The site selected for the live recording was a 2,200 seat hall in Nashville called War Memorial Auditorium and much to our delight, the show sold out well in advance and somebody - I can't remember who - came up with the idea of calling the show the Volunteer Jam, after the Volunteer State of Tennessee.
The date was set, the show was sold out and I had casually invited some of our friends to come and jam with us that night. Toy Caldwell, Paul Riddle and Jerry Eubanks of The Marshall Tucker Band showed up. Dickey Betts from The Allman Brothers band was in town and also came by.
The opening act that night was a band called Flat Creek Band featuring brothers Tommy and Billy Crain. As many of you know, Tommy Crain would later spend fourteen years in The CDB, one of the finest guitarists I've ever worked beside.
They got things off to a rousing start and set the pace for a night of hot music.
CDB took the stage and did our set, getting hot versions of the two tunes we were recording live, and then it was time for some jamming.
Marshall Tucker and The Allman Brothers were about the two hottest bands around at that time, and in particularly in Nashville, so when I brought the Tucker Boys and Dickey Betts on stage to a crowd that had no idea they were even in the building, the place went nuts.
It was obvious that this was not just another concert but a unique happening that had taken on a life of its own, and The Volunteer Jam became probably the most talked about concert of the year and it became very evident that it should be repeated.
And it was, the next year in the 13,000-seat Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and for several years after that at Municipal Auditorium and Starwood Amphitheater back in Nashville with people attending from all over the country and having a positive economic effect on Middle Tennessee.
With rare exceptions in the show’s later years we didn’t announce who our guests would be and the crowd never knew if I was going to introduce Ted Nugent or Willie Nelson, Alabama or Lynyrd Skynyrd, we even had Woody Herman and his Big Band one year and Eugene Fodor, one of the top classical violinists in the world.
One of my heroes, Roy Acuff, came by between shows at the Grand Ole Opry one Saturday night and over the years the Jam’s list of guest artists reads like a who’s who of the music business. Over the years, in addition to Mr. Acuff, and the others I mentioned, there was Tanya Tucker, Johnny Paycheck, Wet Willie, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, Carl Perkins, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dobie Gray, Delbert McClinton, Johnny Lee, Grinderswitch, Vince Gill, Ronnie Millsap, Tammy Wynette, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dr. Hook, B.B. King, Amy Grant, The Bellamy Brothers, James Brown, Molly Hatchet, Larry Gatlin, Exile, George Thorogood, Henry Paul, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Don Henley, B.J. Thomas, Pat Boone, Dwight Yoakum, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tracy Lawrence, The Winters Brothers, Joe Diffie, Rodney Crowell, John Kay & Steppenwolf, Bill Monroe, John Conlee, Little Richard, Marty Stuart, Restless Heart, Elvin Bishop, The Jordanaires, Travis Tritt, fellow fiddler Papa John Creach, The Judds, and that is still leaving out a slew of other folks who made the Jams such unique and special shows.
October 4, 1974 represents a double milestone in the career of the CDB, the advent of Fire On The Mountain - our first multiplatinum album - and the birth of the Volunteer Jam.
There's a whole generation of young people who have heard about the Volunteer Jams but never experienced one.
We have decided to do it again, and next year on August 12th at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the 2015 version of the Volunteer Jam will be held, if you've never been to one, come on down to Music City and enjoy a Tennessee tradition.
We already have commitments from some heavyweight guests and we're just getting started.
But don't ask me who, it's a Volunteer Jam secret.
"Ain't it good to be alive, and be in Tennessee!" – Charlie Daniels at the first Volunteer Jam in 1974
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police and the peace of Jerusalem.
God Bless America
— Charlie Daniels
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