Posted on 04.27.2024

My Worst Birthday Ever - Soapbox Jr.

My worst birthday was my 15th birthday on April 28, 1980.

Was it because I was spoiled and I didn’t get what I wanted?

No, although our plans did change at the last minute because of a tragedy.

It all started off well enough, I was out with Dad and the band for spring break, and we were in Los Angeles for Dad to do a few things, one, he and the band were scheduled to appear on the 15th Annual ACM - Academy of Country Music Awards show from Knott’s Berry Farm, and the CDB was recording one song “In America” at The Record Plant for reasons Dad didn’t remember the last time we talked about it which was probably shortly before he went home in 2020.

So, there was a lot going on, and one thing that was going to happen was we were going to go to Universal Studios Hollywood for my birthday, and I was super excited!

Back then it was less of a theme park than it is today, and the highlight was the Backlot Tour, but for a soon-to-be 15-year-old movie fan, this was gonna be great!

Then the tragedy struck.

On April 22, Toy Caldwell’s brother, Tommy, bass player and founding member of The Marshall Tucker Band along with Toy - and also for all intents and purposes the band leader – struck an illegally parked car in the band’s hometown of Spartanburg, SC and as a result, the Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving rolled onto its side.

From what I can remember hearing at the time, his Land Cruiser - a Jeep-styled vehicle - did indeed have a roll bar, but it wasn’t enough to allow for the give of the seatbelt when it rolled, and Tommy suffered a major head injury.

The outlook wasn’t good, but everyone was praying for a miracle, Tommy was a true road brother to Dad and to the other Southern rock bands who often toured together.

Tommy was just an overall great guy, and beloved by his fellow road dogs.

One night when the CDB was starting out and opening shows for the Tucker boys, Tommy came into the dressing room and asked Dad why they were staying at different hotels than Tucker was. Dad honestly told him that they just didn’t have the money, so they were staying in less expensive hotels.

The truth was that Marshall Tucker’s success came quicker than the CDB’s, and Dad and his organization had to pinch their pennies.

Tommy then pulled a roll of cash out of his boot – Tommy also was also road accountant to my understanding. I believe it was somewhere around a thousand dollars. He handed it to Dad and said, "We want you staying in the same hotels we are," and that it was a loan, pay it back when you can, but if you can’t, that’s okay.

It goes without saying, Dad did pay it back.

It was that kind of camaraderie among the Southern rock road dogs that was incredibly special. They lifted each other up when they needed it.

That was Tommy in a nutshell, but now he was in bad shape. Despite the prayers, everyone pretty much knew there wasn’t much hope, and on April 28, 1980, - my fifteenth birthday – Tommy passed away at the age of 30.

Needless to say, our plans for Universal were scrapped, and I understood completely. It was disappointing, but Dad’s dear friend had just passed away, so there was no choice. Instead of Universal, we went to get me a sports coat for me to wear at Tommy’s funeral, and soon we were catching a plane for Spartanburg.

The loss was compounded by the death of Toy and Tommy’s younger brother, Tim, who died in a car wreck a month before Tommy and it hit Toy and his parents extremely hard.

Since Tommy had not been expected to survive, arrangements were already in place pending his actual passing, so his funeral was scheduled for the following day, April 29th. We flew to Spartanburg on the 28th, attended his funeral on the 29th, and then immediately hopped back on a flight to LA to finish other obligations that were on the books, namely shooting a TV appearance on a Cheryl Ladd TV special and a live performance on the 15th Annual ACM Awards on May 1.

That was an amazing day, in addition to meeting Louise Mandrell, Susan Anton and several of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the CDB won Touring Band of the Year, and introduced a song that nobody was prepared for, including Dad’s record label. “In America,” which had only been recorded days before Tommy’s death brought down the house and left radio stations screaming for the finished track.

As I’ve said before, in 2024, they could have mixed it and dropped it to the public in just a couple of days, but in the days when mixing, mastering and then pressing 45 RPM singles took time, but in a theater in Knott’s Berry Farm which consisted not only of country music fans, but also music executives and other artists and TV/movie stars, the standing ovation went on for what seemed like forever.

It was a song that helped reignite the passion and patriotism of a country that had been going through some hard times.

It was a proud moment to see how this cross-section of people reacted to Dad’s song, and if recording and distribution technology had been faster, there is no doubt in my mind that this song would have hit #1, but instead, it topped out at #10 due to the delay, although some enterprising young radio personalities – including a certain Nashville top 40 jock formerly known as Captain Sunshine – somehow got their hands on the live performance from the ACM Awards and gave it a few spins in the meantime.

The song still holds up today:

“And we’ll all stick together, and you can take that to the bank
That’s the cowboys and the hippies, and the rebels and the Yanks”

In fact, it might be time for someone to revisit this song, the times are remarkably similar.

The birthday and the detour to Spartanburg were obviously a downer, but other than that, the overall trip was a positive experience.

I did finally make it to Universal Studios Hollywood a few years later and finally had that blast I had looked forward to back in 1980.

Better late than never.

Rest in peace, Tommy Caldwell.

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!


#BenghaziAintGoingAway #End22


- Charlie Daniels Jr.


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Don’t Know Today
Amen,Amen and Amen Charlie Jr I can see where Tommy’s sudden death would really have dampened your birthday celebration. I’ve thought a lot about your comment of someone should revisit In America it was a powerful and patriotic masterpiece of the CDB which I have always enjoyed Unfortunately I don’t want to sound down on the idea but personally I think this country is far from where it was when the gospel of Jesus Christ was sent out from the US around the world Today are biggest export is sin from the pornography of Southern California to the LGBTQ agenda promoted by the Obiden administration and funded by the US Congress that sends this crap to numerous countries Aa I listen to CEOs of the largest corporations tell how we need immigration to fill jobs I want to tell them that if we didn’t murder 60 million plus Americans through aboration we would not only have the people to work would have a lot better country because in the 60 million murdered was the scientists that would have found cures for diseases and inventors that would have saved us from all sorts of problems buff said God Bless Plowboy
Posted by Plowboy