Posted on 10.02.2020

A Dying Breed - Soapbox Jr.

Dad’s funeral was July 10th, and I saw many old friends of dad’s that I had not seen in many years.
 
One of them was Doug Gray, the lead singer for The Marshall Tucker Band, and only original member. Just to clarify, there are original members still alive, but no longer with the band.
 
But I saw Doug, and hugged him - masks on, of course - and I told him that there weren’t but a handful of guys like him left. At the time I thought of just Dickey Betts, Doug and Gary Rossington as the few of the survivors of the main southern rock bands of the 70s.
 
There are of course more than that; Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard from ZZ Top are still alive and kicking, Henry Paul from The Outlaws, the incomparable Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie, and others from bands that weren’t as well known outside the hardcore southern rock fans.
 
Not to mention other members of the CDB like Tommy Crain, and of course, Taz DiGregorio who both passed away in 2011. One other member who also passed away was Earl Grigsby who played bass with the CDB in the early 70s.
 
But with dad’s passing, another road dog joined the heavenly band, and there was one less here on earth keeping the southern rock flame alive.
 
Dad always said that that southern rock was less of a “movement” than it was a brotherhood of bands who had completely distinctive sounds, but shared a common upbringing and outlook on life coming from the South.
 
Road brothers.
 
The CDB toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band heavily in the early and mid-‘70s, and the bands bonded. Doug was recently on a tribute to dad and mentioned that they first met when MTB was playing in Nashville, and dad showed up at their dressing room and said, “Are there any southern redneck boys from Spartanburg, South Carolina in here?” almost sounding like he was trying to start a fight, but it was in jest, of course, and they became good friends.
 
Dad told the story about how tough things were when they were starting out and were opening shows for Skynyrd and Tucker, The CDB was having to stay at the cheapest motels they could find. Tommy Caldwell from Tucker showed up in the CDB dressing room and asked dad how come they weren’t staying at the same motel as the MTB. Dad had to tell him that they simply couldn’t afford it. Tommy reached into his boot and pulled out a thousand dollars in cash and told dad to pay it back when he could, and if he couldn’t, to not worry about it, but he wanted them all to stay at the same motels. Dad did, of course, pay Tommy back.
 
But that was the way it was back then. Everyone looked out for one another.
 
Tommy passed away in 1980 on my 15th birthday while I was on spring break and on the road with dad for a couple of weeks. We were in California where dad had just recorded “In America,” when we had to head to Spartanburg for Tommy’s funeral.
 
Tommy’s brother Toy, who wrote all of the first two Tucker albums and sang several of their hits including “Can’t You See,” passed away in 1993 after everyone but Doug had already left the band.
 
George McCorkle from MTB also left us back in 2007. He wrote the band’s biggest charting single, “Fire on the Mountain, and I was proud to call him my friend.
 
Dickey Betts and Jaimoe became the last surviving original members of The Allman Brothers Band after Gregg Allman passed away in 2017, joining his brother, Duane, who died in a motorcycle crash in 1971.
 
Then, of course, there was Ronnie Van Zant.
 
Ronnie and dad were very close, and he was the first road brother that dad was really close to who passed away. Duane Allman died before The CDB had gotten established, so I’m not even sure they got to know each other, but Ronnie’s death hit dad hard.
 
On October 20, 1977, the Lynyrd Skynyrd band’s plane crashed near Gillsburg, Mississippi. Dad and the band were getting ready to take the stage when someone came into the dressing room and said that there was a rumor that everyone in the band had died in a plane crash. The CDB prayed before they went on with the show, and dedicated their set that to the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.
 
News traveled more slowly back then, so it wasn’t until the next day that the details were confirmed. Roadie Dean Kilpatrick, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister Cassie, who was one of the backup singers - The Honkettes - both pilots and dad’s friend, Ronnie Van Zant.
 
The press wanted a statement from dad, so he wrote a poem, and that was the only statement he would give. It also became the dedication to the Million Mile Reflections album.
 
“A brief candle, both ends burning
An endless mile, a bus wheel turning
A friend to share a lonesome time
A handshake and a sip of wine
Say it loud and let it ring
That we're all part of everything
The future, present and the past
Fly on, proud bird, you’re free at last”
 
Dad also wrote a song called “Reflections,” which is a tribute to Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin and Ronnie. Each verse signified an artist who was representative of the ‘50s, ‘60s and the ‘70s, with Ronnie representing the ‘70s.
 
“It was October in St. Louis town
When we heard that the Free Bird had fell to the ground
We all said a prayer before we went down to play
And Ronnie, my buddy, above all the rest
I miss you the most and I loved you the best
And now that you’re gone, I thank God I was blessed
Just to know you.”
 
Dad performed that song live for the first time at Volunteer Jam V – which was also the debut of a little song called “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” I remember sitting on one of the road cases watching dad sing that song live. Dad did his best, but he struggled to get through the “Ronnie my buddy…” and subsequent lyrics. Dad was crying, and at 13 years old, it hit me if dad was that emotional about losing someone, he must have been really close and it must really hurt, then I started crying.
 
I don’t remember ever meeting Ronnie. It’s possible when I was really young, but it’s also possible that I wasn’t on the road when they had shows together, I wish I had the opportunity.
 
When dad turned 80, I was on a mission to find a photograph of dad and Ronnie together, but I was having no luck. I reached out to the Skynyrd camp, to Ronnie’s brother, Donnie, to the band’s management, Ronnie’s widow, all to no avail.
 
Well, a former MCA Records promotion guy posted some old photos from a show in Jacksonville, from what became known as “The Torture Tour,” One was a photo of dad talking to Gary Rossington and the band’s former gym coach and namesake, Leonard Skinner, with Ronnie walking by in the foreground. The other one is Ronnie talking to dad, but largely obscured by Gary, but they were good enough. We actually had the photos drop into our laps via social media. I was able to get them blown up and framed for dad for his 82nd birthday and Christmas in 2018.
 
It was like finding the Holy Grail, or rather having the Holy Grail tweeted to you.
 
So, dad and Ronnie were reunited in a photo, now they’re reunited along with many of their road brothers.
 
To quote one more line from “Reflections:”
 
“Heaven should be proud.”
 
So, with dad and those already mentioned, we’ve also lost Billy Powell, Steve Gaines, Leon Wilkerson, Ed King, Bob Burns and Allen Collins from Skynyrd, and most of the later southern rock band, Molly Hatchet.
 
The original torchbearers of southern rock are indeed a dying breed, but the flame isn’t extinguished quite yet, and here are some bands that are doing their best to keep it burning. There’s Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three and a new duo with a pretty good southern rock pedigree known as The Allman Betts Band.
 
Check them out.
 
What do you think?
 
Pray for our troops, our police, our country and the peace of Jerusalem.
 
God Bless America!
 
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
 

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Comments

Together Again
Amen, Amen & Amen Charlie Jr, those of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will someday be re-united with those believers who have gone before us. I'm sure that your dad and Ronnie are having a hoot of a time with many in the presence of Jesus. More fun than a barrel of monkeys for sure. Every time I hear George Jones sing Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes,and as he states "You know this old world is full of singers But just a few are chosen" I think of these that you write about and a few more. Most of these a either recognizable by a few notes or just their first name, such a Merle. Personally I don't think that we will never see anything equal to the music of done by these artists.....nuff said God Bless Plowboy PS keep the President and First Lady in prayer for a fast and full recovery leading to four more years of greatness, The Chinese flu be damned to the pits of hell.
Posted by Plowboy
Soap box
Thank you so much for these I cry like a baby but it helps
Posted by Matt
A Dying Breed
Good stories, Charlie Jr. I talked with Taz's wife at one of the Fan Club parties. See, we used to have a little tradition on the day of the party, A bunch of us that became friends through Charlie's music, would meet up at Cracker Barrel there in MT Juliet and eat breakfast together. The sign language lady, Liska, became a good friend. As I was talking to Taz's wife, she said Taz told her that he always wanted to join us for our breakfasts'. I wish he had. Another lost one about then was Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. Levon, Johnny Cash, Emmy Lou Harris and your Dad did an album together back around 1978 or 1979 about the legend of Jesse James, I have it and your Dad signed it for me once at the FanClub party. Said he hadn't seen one of those albums in years. The CDB band are great guys! Every year I'd go up to say hi to Chris Wormer and every year, he'd remember me, hug me, and asked about my daughters ( they had a crush on him back in their teen years and he signed many autographs for them). Great memories made all possible by your Dad and his music! Take Care Mark in Shelbyville
Posted by Mark
Role Model
Great story. My eyes started welling up. I’m in my 60’s now, grew up in Florida listening to Southern Rock since high school. I had an awesome poster of the CDB on my wall. The band was on a porch in front of a cabin I believe. I had always admired Charlie’s music but more so his character. As I grew older and wiser, I began to understand where Charlie stood. I sorely miss his tweets every day. But, I know he is with the Lord right now as we speak.
Posted by Ken
Thank you
Thank you for continuing your dad’s legacy. I appreciate the “behind the curtain” looks into CDB travels! I love all your posts!
Posted by James
Dying Breed Indeed
Great piece. You must have a pretty good memory to keep track of all that. It may have even seemed eclectic to them but all shared a spirit, I'm sure. Beyond those mentioned there was Blackfoot with Rickey Medlocke, who is left. Grandfather Shorty and drummer Jakson Spires are gone. (a favorite) Glad you mentioned Jaimoe.. Allman Bros. Butch Trucks is gone('17) but his nephew, Derek Trucks, carries on the genre nicely and Warren Haynes. Dickey Betts is a survivor. But I still feel your dad was a great loss and will be sorely missed. My best to your family.
Posted by Jeff
Rest in peace Charlie love your music you will be missed
I support the military my dad served in the army fought in two wars I love supporting the military the men and women in blue I love supporting our president thank you Charlie Daniels for the legacy you left praying for you wife and son rest in peace see you in heaven
Posted by Robbin
Ronnie and Charlie
Ronnie was my brother-in-law and he loved Charlie as much as Charlie loved him. I remember meeting Charlie at Ronnie’s funeral and also Charlie and Miss Hazel at the premier of “Freebird the Movie.” Miss Ronnie and Charlie so much. God bless...
Posted by Andre
Loved Charlie
Thanks so much for continuing Charlies Soapbox. CDB was the "bonding" band between my husband and I. I was into all the pop songs of the day until I met my husband. He introduced me to the music of all the southern rock bands. CDB was the one I really liked. We had met in 1980 and married in 82. We could hardly afford to feed ourselves, until Ronald Reagan turned our economy around. Then when ever we could afford it, we saw Charlie in concert all over NE Wisconsin. I, we, Loved CDB. I was so happy when I found and joined Charlie's Soap Box on facebook. It was like a step into the past. I had ordered my husband a cap and T-shirt for Father's Day 2020. My hubby was excited, as CDB was such a part of our past. And then a short time later, Charlie was gone. MY hubby put the shirt and hat in the closet, not wanting to ruin them. He has never worn them. Just wanted to share my story. Charlie will be missed.
Posted by Mary
truth
You Stand proud... Your Dad was One of kind.. Devoted his time to us fans, Our country,, Our God . And You all... My Young Son and I met your dad long ago a few times ,through a mishap with a skynyrd show.. Met Leon..uncle onle.. he says ' your son and you all love cdb? Well I know him personally.. next time cdb is up your way let security know who you are, tell em Leon sent ya.. Good Times with the skynyrd Folks and The Cdb Band..Still cant Believe Our American spokesman ( your DAD Is With The Angels)..also a fan club member...im sure his pets Miss him Dearly also.. just breaks my Heart. I pray During tis holiday Time,You keep A good Eye on Miss. Hazel..God Bless ,You And yours..my Heart Is Broken also, your Dad Was A Very kind Humble Man.
Posted by Arthur