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Five questions with Charlie Daniels

When the devil went down to Georgia, it ran into a fiery fiddle-playing boy named Johnny and challenged him to a musical duel for his soul — so the story goes.

No doubt that devil probably ran into Charlie Daniels, too.

Bet you can guess who won that battle.

It seems as if Daniels, 73, has been winning again and again.

His latest battle was back in January, when a mild stroke took him down. But not for long.

Daniels and his band are still truckin’. In fact, The Charlie Daniels Band is back on the road again, making a stop in Palmetto as headliners for this weekend’s Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribfest.

The band will perform 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Forever adored for its country rock/bluegrass sound, Daniel’s band is so well loved that there are fans who have seen him perform 100-plus times. They are part of a unique group Daniels calls the Century Club. When a fan has reached the 100 mark, they receive a belt buckle.

“I don’t even know how many of those I’ve passed out through the years,” said Daniels.

That speaks volumes to Daniels about his worth as a musician and entertainer.

“You’ve got to do something that people enjoy and if they enjoy it, they’ll come see you again and again,” he said of being well-liked in the entertainment business. “You’ll have a long career. If you don’t, then when the records stop, you’re finished.”

Daniels, who has crafted hits such as “In America” and “Long Haired Country Boy,” has been enjoying his successful career one day at a time.

The musician likes to blog on the side and listen to a variety of music outside his own. He loves big band music. Rock. Even classical fare.

“But I don’t sit around reading Shakespeare and listening to Bach all the time,” he said. “I do enjoy classical music from time to time.”

Here’s five questions with Daniels:

You’ve been performing for 50-plus years. Do you ever look back on your life and wonder how did I get this far?

I look at how God has blessed me to do something for a living that I love doing very much — that I’ve loved for all these 52 years, and still love. And to still be a vital part of the music business, even at the age of 73 years old I’m still able to create music and entertain people and have people enjoy it. That’s kind of how I look back at it.

No regrets along the way?

I’m sure if I went back and looked through I would see regrets, mistakes that I have made. I can do nothing about it. You know dwelling on yesterday or today or tomorrow for that matter — I’m not a ‘what if’ guy, because it’s actually a waste of time. You learn from experience. If you put your finger in the flame, you burn it and remember not to do it again. Or if you do something that’s gratifying that was good, you remember to do it again. Other than that, the best thing to do is put the past behind you and put the future in front of you and live today.

What do you think of the music industry at the moment?

I think some of it’s good and some of is not. I think it’s time for another innovator. . . . All through the years, when rock music gets in trouble it goes back to the blues — every so often there’s an Eric Clapton, B.B. King sort of thing because that’s where it all started. It’s kind of a back to roots sort of thing — not across the board, but there’s a lot of influences because rock ’n’ roll will never get away from the blues. Country music, when it gets in trouble it kind of goes back — there’s a period of tradition with the Clint Blacks and Randy Travises, George Strait, Alan Jackson. The kind of thing that reminds people where it came from. So what the next innovation will be, I don’t know.

You’ve been around for a long time. A lot of people cite you as an influence. Do you have any influences?

About a million and a half. I am blessed that I love all kinds of music. I listen to all kinds of music. If you looked in my iPod or my record collection you would see that I have everything from Beethoven to Bill Monroe.

You’re 73 years old. Is there anything you’d like to accomplish before you retire?

I enjoy doing what I’m doing.

One of my most cherished accomplishments is keeping 25 people steadily and gainfully employed for 30 years. I take that very seriously. . . . I could sit here and tell you all the grandiose things I’d like to do but I just enjoy sustaining who we are and what we do.

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