That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 5: Fire on the Mountain
While writing and arranging songs for ‘Fire on the Mountain,’ dad made a monumental decision. For the first time, instead of trying to emulate other vocalists – like he did when he was playing cover tunes in nightclubs for almost 10 years – he would stand in front of the microphone and sing in his own voice, and whatever came out was what they would use.
It worked, to say the least.
There were also two live tracks that he wanted to include which meant that they had to schedule a live recording session, a concert where they could record two songs.
That show was the very first Volunteer Jam at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.
The band’s style began to solidify, and on November 29, 1974, the CDB released ‘Fire on the Mountain’ on Kama Sutra Records which was the second album released in 1974 along with ‘Way Down Yonder’ which was later retitled ‘Whiskey, and had the same lineup as that previous album.’
The album kicks off with one of my all-time favorite CDB story songs, “Caballo Diablo.”
As the title suggests, it is about a legendary untamed “devil horse” which roamed the desert and brought death to anyone who dared try to get on his back and one cowboy who was determined to conquer the beast. It doesn’t end well for either of them, but it does make for a dramatic song with lots of great guitar work.
Next up was “Long Haired Country Boy” a true redneck anthem with a dobro solo by none other than the Allman Brothers' own Dickey Betts.
The song tells the story of an easygoing fella who passes the time away stoned and drunk. In the late 80s, dad stopped doing this song in his shows because he made some life changes, and didn’t want to advocate for getting drunk and stoned.
He later changed a couple of lines and started performing it again in the early 90s, changing “I get stoned in the morning and drunk in the afternoon” to “I get up in the morning and get down in the afternoon” as well as changing “I will take another toke” to “I will tell another joke” and then later he started singing “I will rope another goat” just to be funny in the last few years.
This song was released as a single twice, once when this album was released and again after “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” became a hit.
There’s also the whole story about how dad was sued over the song by Acuff-Rose Music, but that would take up too much time in a soapbox about multiple songs, so I’ll save that for another time.
“Georgia” is the first of several songs that had been previously recorded, this one on dad’s first album on Capitol Records.
This one is slightly slower and more country than the original and dad’s voice sounds more like what we’re familiar with than he did on the Capitol album.
Trudy is the next song and the next re-recorded song, lifting a song he originally recorded for the above-mentioned Capitol self-titled album.
It’s the classic story of a young Cajun man who ends up in Dallas Texas with six month’s pay that he wants to play around with, and ends up playing poker in a backroom and doing quite well until John Lee Walker came in and sat down at the table and won all of his money, accusations of cheating lead to an altercation where Walker pulls a gun, but the protagonist slams a chair over his head before he ran only to be caught by the cops and says to contact his girlfriend, Trudy, to help him get out of the Dallas County Jail.
It’s a classic which has a great bassline, especially the breakdown telling about the poker game.
It’s about a man who set out for the dreams of fortune and glory playing music in the Golden State, only to realize how difficult it is to make it there and he longs for his home in Georgia.
The next track is “Feelin’ Free.” If you don’t recognize the vocalist, it’s because it’s the only song that guitar player at the time, Barry Barnes, ever performed lead vocals on. It’s a fun uptempo song with a lot of dad’s fiddle, it kind of feels like something Dickey Betts would have done with the Allman Brothers, ala “Ramblin’ Man.”
Side two kicks off with ‘The South’s Gonna Do It” (original title) it later morphed into “The South’s Gonna Do It (Again)” or “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.”
If you listen to the song, you know what it is about. It’s about the bands who were part of the southern rock movement, and nothing else.
It was about southern pride and the great music that was coming out of the region. I’m pretty sure that the song was the suggestion of producer Paul Hornsby.
Dad took the idea and ran with it, making it the ultimate tribute to the bands Grinderswitch, The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynryd, Dickey Betts and the Allman Brothers, Elvin Bishop, a pre-Eliminator ZZ Top, Wet Willie, Barefoot Jerry and of course, the CDB.
It’s a classic through and through, and has endured for nearly 48 years now.
Next up is another remake, “New York City King Sized Rosewood Bed” with vocals once again by Taz DiGregorio. The arrangement rocks more than the one on “Te John, Grease & Wolfman” album with a funky groove and some great guitar work, along with powerful tinkling of the ivories from Taz.
Next up, the first of two live songs from the first Volunteer Jam, “No Place to Go,” also a previously recorded number from ‘Honey in the Rock’/’Uneasy Rider.’
This one is about a minute longer than the original, and everything just really kicks, and shows how great of a live performance band they were. The story is the same, a man who is going through some extremely hard times and
“When a man hits the bottom,
One thing I know, yes I know
There ain’t no place left to go”
The longer version allows for some great solos and an extended ending.
It’s one of my all-time favorites.
Then the second side, and the album as a whole, ends with a hot instrumental live recording of Ervin T. Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special” also from the first VolJam.
It’s my favorite version of the song, but then I’m probably a bit biased, but I’ve heard the song performed many times, but I always come back to dad’s.
Over the years, the live version would extend to include a square dance breakdown with the Stony Mountain Cloggers, dual banjos, and a revised ending which brings to mind a train engine starting to chug faster and faster. It was always a highlight of any CDB show to watch dad perform “Orange Blossom Special.”
The album got lots of airplay on what was then called AOR radio – Album Oriented Rock. The album went gold, and then platinum.
Dad has often said that there is no telling how many copies were sold by Kama Sutra because when CBS/Epic Records purchased the back catalog from Kama Sutra with the stipulation that they would be able to continue selling FOTM until they sold out of the stock they had on hand. Dad always felt they went back for an extra pressing or two, but he had no proof.
The album was dedicated to the road crew at the time:
“Dedicated to • David, Michael, Gene and Sonny
Hungover, Red Eyed, Dog Tired Satisfied - it's a long road and a little wheel and it takes a lot of turns to get there.
Thank You Damn It.”
One last thing that was included with the original Kama Sutra release was a 45 which trimmed down some of the “jamming” portions of the first VolJam, but was never released through Epic.
But there’s a chance you’ll hear some of that, and more from the first Volunteer Jam soon.
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels
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