Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels – Over One BILLION Served - Soapbox Jr.
August 18, 2021
Of all the Volunteer Jams, the road to Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels was a bumpy one.
It was originally titled Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute and would have been the next in the series of Volunteer Jams. I have to admit that I hated the title. It sounded like a posthumous tribute show while he was still alive and going strong, but ultimately it was prophetic and with a little rewording, highly appropriate.
It was originally supposed to be held in September of 2020 but in March, but with the shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nearly complete shutdown of not just the music business, but practically ALL business, in March of 2020, the decision was made to move the show from September to February of 2021.
Then, obviously, July 6, 2020 changed everything. The show was retitled Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels, and after lingering COVID-19 concerns, it was again moved to August of 2021.
With the renewed concerns about the COVID Delta variant, even just a few weeks before, fears started ramping up that the show could be postponed again, and frankly, if that had happened, I don’t know if it would have been rescheduled.
But thankfully that didn’t happen.
The bittersweet Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute went on as scheduled, with few COVID-related issues. Unfortunately, COVID kept Alabama and Gretchen Wilson from taking part.
But the evening was exciting, and the fans were electric. They came for what is likely one final hurrah of the concert series which began all the way back in 1974.
The Isaacs started off the night with their beautiful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,”
That kicked off an evening that was truly an amazing tribute to the life, career and legacy of Charlie Daniels.
Even without Gretchen and the ‘Bama boys, the lineup was spectacular.
The first-timers were numerous, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Big & Rich, 38 Special, Jenny Tolman, Cece Winans, Travis Denning, Anthony Castagna, The SteelDrivers, Rhett Akins, Pure Prairie League Cedrick Burnside, Randy Travis and comedian Dusty Slay.
Those veterans who returned for the – most likely – final Jam were, The Marshall Tucker Band, Chris Young, Exile, The Allman Betts Band, Lorrie Morgan, Scooter Brown Band, The Gatlin Brothers, Johnny Lee, Travis Tritt, Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie and Ricky Skaggs and was, once again, hosted by Sirius/XM personality, Storme Warren.
Storme introduced mom and me and we took the stage, I indicated to him that I had something I wanted to say, and he handed me the microphone. I said that almost every Jam had started this way, so if you don’t mind, “Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!” The Jam faithful recognized the words and responded in kind. I walked off stage and I realized that I said the concerts started off with that line… It wasn’t ever in a particular place, but I got lost in the moment, but I don’t think anyone cared or was going to fact-check me.
Randy Travis also appeared with vocalist James Dupré singing Randy’s signature song, “Forever and Ever Amen.” James sang the song, but the final “Amen” belonged to Randy, whose speech has been limited since a stroke in 2013.
Big & Rich sang their hits “Eighth of November” and “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy,” but in between they played “God Bless America” and urged fans to turn on their cellphone lights. It was beautiful, and I know dad approved.
There were so many wonderful performances, many like Chris Young chose to do an original song or two of theirs, in Chris’ case it was “Friends “Getting You Home (The Black Dress Song)” and his newest single, “Famous Friends,” but he also did a song he performed at Volunteer Jam XX, “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.”
One moment that left me in tears was Michael W. Smith and Cece Winans performance of “How Great Thou Art.” As I wrote about not too long ago, after hearing an acoustic version of the song at our church a few months ago, I listened to dad’s version in the car, and I wasn’t expecting tears to flow, and I was in the same shape during the Michael and Cece’s performance. It was powerful and it left me a wreck.
The amazing performances continued all night long, 38 Special rocked, The Gatlin Brothers, Exile, the highly underrated Scooter Brown Band. Scott Brown recorded a song with dad called “American Song,” and played his vocals during the performance.
But for me, there was one moment that topped them all.
Doug Gray, the lead singer for The Marshall Tucker Band, and longtime friend of dad's had a presentation to make. I had already seen Doug before the show started, he was in the interview chair with John Rich for his Fox Nation show before I was to sit down with John, and I was waiting in the wings until they finished and I came up from behind and surprised him.
But for that portion of the show, I was seated with my mom on the side of the stage, and something that was put in motion many months ago was finally happening. I see all the streaming numbers from the major streaming services and my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw the Pandora numbers. I got in touch with Don Murry Grubbs, the publicist we use, and he knew someone at Pandora, and the wheels started spinning.
Doug brought mom and me on stage to present an award from Pandora, the Billionaire Award, for artists that have had over one billion – that’s with a “B” – streams on their service.
There aren’t a lot of country artists who have over a billion streams, and most of them are products of the current age, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and so forth.
When dad was in his heyday, record success was measured in gold and platinum albums, for an artist who was performing decades before the advent of streaming to reach that mark is a testament to dad’s music, and to his loyal fans who continue to listen.
Dad would have been honored and humbled at the milestone.
Mom was holding back tears, but I was ready to show off a bit. I carried the plaque off the stage, but I couldn’t resist raising it over my head for everyone to see. I was and always will be extremely proud of him.
Then Travis Tritt took the stage for an acoustic version of "Long Haired Country Boy."
The final portion of the show featured the CDB, of sorts. Longtime members Bruce Brown and Charlie Hayward were on hand, and Chris Wormer got what he calls a “Big boy job,” and was actually trying to do two jobs at the same time in the transition and was unable to make it. There was also a vacancy behind the keyboards and a last-minute change at drummer. Dane Bryant played keys for the night.
For the first time in 22 years Jack Gavin, was back behind the drums, and Chris Wormer’s replacement on guitar was nothing to sneeze at either. Billy Crain, brother of longtime CDB guitar player, Tommy Crain, made his first and likely only appearance as a member of the CDB. He was ¼ of dad’s last side project, Beau Weevils, but never officially with the CDB. It was an honor to have you aboard, Billy Bill.
There was also an obvious absence on fiddle, and Donnie Reis filled in for “the best there’s ever been” sawing so hard on “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” that he broke his fiddle bow.
Dad would be proud.
The incomparable Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie sang “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” and Chris Young provided the lead vocals on “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
The final Jam portion also featured the J.J. Cale/Skynyrd classic “Call Me the Breeze” with a who’s who of the evening’s performers on stage one last time.
The only thing missing from the night was dad himself, but the love for him was obvious.
It was beautiful, it was emotional, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had, and not just because of the music and friends I saw.
But all good things must come to an end, and so ends the almost 47-year history of the Volunteer Jam, although I do hope there is some way for it to continue. I’m just not sure what that would look like yet. But maybe someone will come up with an idea and say, “You know what would be great…?”
And I’ll be all ears.
Thank you to everyone who performed, and to the fans who without you, none of this would have been possible.
And as dad observed, “Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!”
Let’s all make the day count, dad would want it that way.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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