Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels Dead at 83

A legend in country music, Southern rock, & bluegrass, multi-instrumentalist Charlie Daniels has died. Daniels’ death was confirmed by his publicist Don Murry Grubbs. He was 83.

Charlie Daniels. Photo: Erick Anderson

Born Charles Edward Daniels on October 28th, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina, he was raised on a musical diet that included Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands, and the rhythm & blues and country music from Nashville’s 50,000-watt radio stations WLAC and WSM (AM). Already skilled on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin, he formed a rock ‘n’ roll band and hit the road after his high school graduation in 1955.

Daniels was a successful songwriter and session musician, playing on recordings by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Williams, Jr. and others. His first hit song was 1973’s “Uneasy Rider” from his 3rd studio album, Honey in the Rock.

In 1979, Daniels won a Grammy Award for what would be his biggest hit, the cross-over song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

My first introduction to Daniels was from acquiring his second album, Te John, Grease, & Wolfman, which didn’t garner any hits, but had a couple great blues covers by way of Mose Allison’s “Parchmont Farm,” and Stick McGee’s “Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee.” My all-time favorite from his was Million Mile Reflections, but not because of the “Devil” song. It was because of the song “Reflections,” which paid homage to Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and Ronnie Van Zant. A couple other noteworthy, but underappreciated songs from the album are “Blind Man,” and the 7-minute-long jam song, “Rainbow Ride.”

Other singles of his are on my mental play list and pop on from time to time. “Trudy,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” (with Dickey Betts on dobro), “Wichita Jail,” “Billy the Kid,” “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” and, of course, his epic version of the “Orange Blossom Special.”

I was privileged to see him live nearly a dozen times all across the country, including a very up-close-and-personal performance at the Crystal River Manatee Festival in 1985. Although that concert actually lost money due to poor attendance, I was one of the fortunate few who actually sat awestruck on the edge of the stage.

Charlie made no bones about his politics, although they tended to lean from left to right over time. He spoke his mind in his songs, winning fans, and sometimes gaining adversaries. He was an outdoorsman, an NRA member, and a staunch supporter of the military. He was married to his wife Hazel for over 55 years, and made comebacks after suffering a badly broken arm, prostate cancer, pneumonia, a stroke, and the implementation of a pacemaker.

In all, Charlie Daniels released 36 studio albums, 19 live and compilation albums, and 36 charting singles. He was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Daniels died Monday morning (July 6) at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tennessee. Doctors determined the cause of death was a hemorrhagic stroke.

It’ll be a little quieter, a bit less rambunctious in Tennessee and around the world, but we only need drop a needle and relive this Long Haired Country Boy’s life and legacy.

Charlie Daniels Eulogy: Remembering the Great Fiddler, Singer and Songwriter

Editor’s note: Don Wilcock is currently writing his memoirs, looking back at 51 years starting with Sounds from The World, a column he wrote for “grunts” in the rice paddies of Vietnam in what was then the largest official Army newspaper in the world, ‘The Army Reporter.’

I love artists who go against the grain. The ones who see beyond the misplaced attitudes of the masses. Charlie Daniels was such a man. Daniels passed away of a hemorrhage stroke on Monday, July 6th at age 83.

He was a Southerner who wasn’t still fighting the Civil War. He was a popular artist who understood the plight of the drafted veterans of the Vietnam War. And he played music that broke from the clichés of the country hit parade throughout his career, and he did it well.

Daniels played guitar as if it were his last solo every time I saw him take the stage. And he consistently fronted a band that was respected by hardcore fans who ranged from hippies to rednecks, veterans to youngsters, top 40 followers to nostalgia freaks. 

To me personally he was one of those interviews with whom I could count on to have an instant rapport. My style of interviewing has always been to begin an interview by becoming my victim’s best friend for half an hour or 45 minutes on the phone. Charlie played the same game. And he played it so well that he made this grizzled veteran feel like he really meant it. He WAS my best friend. He was the uncle from the south I never had. And he cared about me as an individual, and not just a vehicle to get more asses in the seats.

Daniels supported the U.S. military with The Journey Home Project which he founded in 2014 with his manager, David Corlew, to help veterans. The last time I saw him was when he did a 2014 benefit for homeless veterans at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York headlining over The Marshall Tucker Band promoted by my friend Jim Anderson. “We send people off to put their lives on the line for us, and they come back and we don’t take care of ’em. That is unacceptable,” he told me at the time. And this wasn’t just platitudes from a guy supporting a now popular cause. 

In 1981, way before it became appropriate for rock stars to support the vets, he did a benefit for the Vietnam Veterans of America at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The VVA was ahead of the curve 30 years ago in efforts to get help for vets whose cause was being largely overlooked by the Veterans Administration. I was a member of the VVA at the time and worked on promoting that show. We were not happy. And our cause, later deemed just, was not universally accepted as worthy. We were a squeaky wheel. And, unlike the Me Too movement or Black Lives Matter, we weren’t gaining the leverage that our cause deserved, certainly not among the in crowd of rock fans.

“I learned very early on in my life that there were two things that actually took care of the United States of America,” Daniels told me in 2014. “It was the grace of God first of all, and the United States military. It was that way then, and it’s that way now. As long as there’s a United States of America it will be that way.” 

This veteran string master and singer/songwriter won a Grammy for “The Devil Went Down in Georgia” that went No. 1 on the country charts in 1979 and No. 3 on the pop charts. It was voted single of the year by the Country Music Association.

He played guitar on Dylan’s career defining “Nashville Skyline” LP in 1969. The son of a lumberjack who grew up in North Carolina, Daniels listened to the Grand Ole Opry as a kid and toured his first solo album in one van while David Corlew drove the other. Forty-one years later, Corlew is still his manager. 

‘Nashville Skyline’ recording session

When Jimmy Carter inducted Daniels into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, the former President stated, “He’s played everything from rock to jazz, folk to western swing and honky tonk to award-winning gospel. In Charlie’s own words, ‘Let there be fun and 12 notes of music make us all one.’ ”

A self-avowed Christian, Daniels told me he’d never hung out in what he called “the show business crowd, the underbelly nightlife.” He was unapologetic in saying “I came from a redneck background of working-class people. I’ve worked in the tobacco fields. I’ve picked cotton a little bit. I know what it’s like, and that’s basically my people. That’s the people I like to be around. And it keeps me grounded. I’ve never had a problem being me.”

That said, he recorded with legendary Nashville producer Bob Johnson who introduced him to Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Dylan. His latest album at the time of his 2014 concert, was called Off The Grid – Doin’ It Dylan. Songs like “Tangled Up in Blue” and “The Times They Are A Changin’” sound like Charlie Daniels music, not covers of another American classic. One song not on the album is “Lay, Lady, Lay.”

“I played on the original, and it’s always been one of my favorite Dylan tunes,” said Daniels. “But I just couldn’t make it mean anything and get away from that particular arrangement the way it was done in Nashville. So, we just moved on. We tried changing the feel, but it would always go back to are we doing the song justice? No, we’re not. If we do this, it’s gonna be contrived. And we are not contriving this album. So, let’s move along and do something else.”

Dan Rather had recently interviewed Charlie Daniels for his AXS TV show. Rather spent a day with the iconic artist in his studio, on his front porch and on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. “I kept waiting for the gotcha factor,” said Daniels. “I kept waiting for the trick question. I kept waiting for it and it never happened.”

There is no “gotcha” that could trip up Daniels. He was an open book.  My favorite work of his is a recitation called “My Beautiful America” where he says: “Did you ever see the early morning dew sparkling on the blue grass / Or the wind stir the wheat fields on a hot Kansas afternoon / Or driven the lonely stretches of old Route 66 / Have you ever heard the church bells peal their call to worship / On an early Sunday in some small town in the deep south?”

I feel like I’ve lost a brother in Charlie. He got to me in every way that only a great artist can. His songs came from deep in his heart. He delivered them with guts and gusto. And he put his beliefs on the line, never yielding to what might be hip at the moment, working to make life better for everyone.

Rest in peace, my brother.

Top 12 Willie Dixon Songs

Anyone who has any working knowledge of the blues, or of rock and roll for that matter, knows the name Willie Dixon (7/1/1915 – 1/29/1992). The 6? 6?, 250-pound bass playing “Bard of the Blues” was one of the key figures in the formation of the Chicago blues sound. During his career he wrote, or co-wrote over 500 songs, many of which have become blues standards. Dixon is an inaugural inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame, and has been inducted as well into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, and Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 1989 he received a Grammy Award for his album Hidden Charms.

Keith Dixon with grandpa Willie Dixon
Keith Dixon with his grandfather, Willie Dixon Photo: Mary Katherine Aldin

He was a bassist and sideman for some of the top acts in the world, including some folks don’t realize. Of course he backed Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter, but also served as a sideman for artists including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Johnny Winter, and Fleetwood Mac.

But it’s his songwriting we’re concerned with here. One of the most prolific songwriters in the history of the blues was Dixon. He began writing songs at a young age, adapting them from poems he’d written in Mississippi. After moving to Chicago, he was eventually signed to Chess Records as an artist, but actually spent more time as a producer, talent scout and staff songwriter.

It was during his years at Chess that Dixon was at his most productive. Although his songs were blues, they were covered (or borrowed) by some the top rock and roll, country, and jazz acts of the time.

Left to right, Willie Dixon, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry
Left to right, Willie Dixon, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry

What was it about writing the blues that stirred Dixon’s soul? The big man said it best himself.

My old man always told me that the blues was the true facts of life.That’s expressed in words and songs and experience and understanding. And he explained also that lots of times when people would hear someone singing the blues they always said that these people was lonesome is the reason why they called it lonesome and blue. And so they called it blues because they felt like people that sung certain blues was lonesome while they sung em.

But he always felt like the reason that they was really singing the blues was because it was a true fact of life and these people was singing about their experiences that they had in life. Whether it was good experience, bad experience or what type of experience and they sung and made songs according. And that’s why I wrote so many songs because I been writing about the true facts of life that exists today, and yesterday and for what I hope will be tomorrow a better future.

We’re aware that there are as many favorite songs of his as there are blues fans, but this is list is what we consider our “Top 12.”

“Hoochie Coochie Man”

Chess Records released “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters in early 1954 on both 78 and 45. Originally credited to Waters, re-releases have been changed to credit Dixon as the songwriter. “Hoochie Coochie Man” is one of the most interpreted Waters and Dixon songs. The Blues Foundation and the Grammy Hall of Fame recognize the song for its influence in popular music and the US Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry selected it for preservation in 2004. The song has been covered dozens of times by artists as varied as the Allman Brothers, Motorhead, Jimi Hendrix, and the New York Dolls.

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Sometimes listed as “Evil (Is Going On),” this Dixon penned classic was first recorded on May 25th, 1954 by Howlin’ Wolf. Unlike “Hoochie Coochie Man” with its 16 bar basis, “Evil” was a more traditional 12 bar blues song punctuated by a syncopated backbeat. It has become a blues standard, and when Wolf re-recorded it for The Howlin’ Wolf Album in 1969, it became his last Billboard charting single.

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“If the Sea Was Whiskey”

An early release, “If the Sea Was Whiskey” was first recorded by The Big Three Trio in 1947. The group was made up of Dixon, pianist Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston, and guitarist Bernardo Dennis (replaced after one year with Ollie Crawford). Caston was fresh out of the service where he played USO shows for the troops, and Dixon was fresh out of jail, serving 10 months for refusing the draft as a contentious objector.

If many of the lyrics sound familiar, that’s because they’ve been borrowed and changed up for other songs. Tex Ritter used similar lyrics in his 1948 song “Rye Whiskey.” However, it seems that Dixon and Caston did a little borrowing of their own, as the second verse was lifted almost directly from the 1924 song, “Lost Wandering Blues,” and then Blind Lemon Jefferson’s song, “Match Box Blues” from 1927. The “matchbox as a suitcase” metaphor was probably taken from much earlier traditional songs though.

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“Bring it on Home”

“Bring it on Home” was recorded on January 11th, 1963 by Sonny Boy Williams II for the Checker label, bur for some reason wasn’t released until 1966. In that year it was released as a single on the Checker imprint and by Chess Records on the compilation album, The Real Folk Blues. The original recording had Matt “Guitar” Murphy on guitar, Milton Rector on bass, Al Duncan on drums and either Lafayette Leake or Billy Emerson on organ.

This is one of the songs that brought a suit against Led Zeppelin. It seems that Arc Music (the publishing branch of Chess), filed suit for Zeppelin recording the song on their album Led Zeppelin II without their permission. As a side note, both Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters later sued Arc Music for allowing groups to use their songs without compensation to the songwriters.

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“I Can’t Quit You Baby”

For those who think that Dixon wrote for Chess artists alone, let it be known that “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” by West Side Chicago guitarist/singer Otis Rush was the first single released by him and by the Cobra Records label.

Recorded in 1956 at Boulevard Recording in Chicago, the song has become a blues standard, it’s slow-drag, 12 bar sound hitting #6 on the Billboard charts the year of its release. In Dixon’s autobiography, the song was written specifically for Rush, and talks about a relationship that Otis was in at the time. Accompanying Rush on lead guitar and vocal are Big Walter Horton on harmonica, Red Holloway on tenor sax, Lafayette Leake on piano, Wayne Bennett on second guitar, Dixon on bass, and Al Duncan on drums.

“I Can’t Quit You Baby” was also recorded by Led Zeppelin on their debut album, as well as by Little Milton, John Mayall, Gary Moore, and several others.

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“Talk to Me Baby (I Can’t Hold Out)”

Dixon wrote “Talk to Me Baby (I Can’t Hold Out)” in late 1958 or 1959 in Los Angeles while he was on tour with Memphis Slim. Upon his return to Chicago, he was invited by Elmore James to participate in a recording session for Chess. The recorded the song as “I Can’t Hold Out” in April of 1960, and Chess rushed it to release the following month.

More of an upbeat jump or shuffle, the song went on to be re-recorded several times by James, but also by artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Canned Heat, Son Seals, and Colin James.

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“Diddy Wah Diddy”

“Diddy Wah Diddy” was the fourth single from Bo Diddley on Checker Records. Bo and Willie co-wrote this song, recorded it in November of 1955, and released it the following year. The song shares only its title with Blind Blake’s song “Diddie Wah Diddie” recorded in 1929.

Lyrically, the song makes mention of the mythical town of Diddy Wah Diddy. It was commonly believed that in Diddy Wah Diddy food could be found in abundance, the townsfolk did not have to work, and people and animals had no concerns.

Later the song was covered by Captain Beefheart, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and others.

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“My Babe”

“My Babe” was written by Dixon specifically for Little Walter. Even though Walter wasn’t very fond of the song at the time, when it was released in February of 1955, it spent 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B charts beginning on March 12th, including five weeks at the top position, making it one of the biggest R&B hits of the year. The song was the only Dixon composition ever to become a number one R&B single and it was one of the biggest hits of his or Walter’s careers.

Dixon based “My Babe” on the traditional gospel song “This Train (Is Bound For Glory)”, recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe as “This Train” Ray Charles had famously, and controversially, pioneered the gospel-song-to-secular-song approach with his reworking of the gospel hymn “It Must Be Jesus” into “I Got a Woman,” which hit the Billboard R&B charts on January 22nd, 1955, later climbing to the number one position for one week. Within days of the appearance of Charles’s song on the national charts, Checker released “My Babe” while “I’ve Got a Woman” was still on the charts. The single eclipsed Charles’ record.

In 2008, “My Babe” was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the “Classic of Blues Recording – Singles or Album Tracks” category.

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“Back Door Man”

“Back Door Man” was first released by Howlin’ Wolf as the B-side of “Wang Dang Doodle.” In Southern culture, the phrase “back-door man” refers to a man having an affair with a married woman, using the back door as an exit before the husband comes home.

The song was recorded in Chicago in June 1960 with Wolf (vocals), Otis Spann (piano), Hubert Sumlin and Freddy Robinson (guitars), Dixon (double bass), and Fred Below (drums). Although a double sided hit for Howlin’ Wolf, “Back Door Man” was one of the launching pads for a Southern California rock band’s first album that went to #2 on the Billboard charts some seven years later. That band was, of course, The Doors.

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Dixon’s “Spoonful” is loosely based on “A Spoonful Blues”, a song recorded in 1929 by Charley Patton, which is related to “All I Want Is a Spoonful” by Papa Charlie Jackson (1925) and “Cocaine Blues” by Luke Jordan (1927).

Recorded first by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960, the song has a one-chord, modal blues structure found in other songs Willie Dixon wrote for Wolf, such as “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Back Door Man”, and in Wolf’s own “Smokestack Lightning”.

The British rock group Cream recorded “Spoonful” for their 1966 UK debut album, Fresh Cream. Otis Rush had stated that Dixon presented ‘Spoonful’ to him, but the song didn’t suit Rush’s tastes and so it ended up with Wolf, and soon thereafter with Etta James. It is one of Dixon’s best known and most interpreted songs.

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“Wang Dang Doodle”

Etta James wasn’t the only woman to make a Dixon song famous. Although first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in June of 1960, “Wang Dang Doodle” took on a life of its own when the great Koko Taylor wrapped her snarling vocals around it on December 7th, 1965. Released in early 1966, Taylor’s version was backed by Gene Barge and Donald Hawkins on saxophones, Lafayette Leake on piano, Buddy Guy and Johnny “Twist” Williams on guitars, Jack Meyers on bass guitar, Fred Below on drums, and Willie Dixon singing with Taylor.

The song peaked at number four on Billboard magazine’s R&B singles chart and number 58 on the Hot 100. In 1995, Taylor’s rendition was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the “Classics of Blues Recording – Singles or Album Tracks” category. The Foundation noted that the song was the last blues single produced by Dixon to reach the record charts, and “became Koko Taylor’s signature crowdpleaser, inspiring singalongs to the ‘all night long’ refrain night after night.”

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“I Just Want to Make Love to You”

“I Just Want to Make Love to You” is a 1954 blues song written by Dixon, and first recorded by Muddy Waters, released as “Just Make Love to Me”. The song reached number four on Billboard magazine’s R&B Best Sellers chart. Backing Waters on vocals are Little Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Otis Spann on piano, Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. Waters recorded the song again for the album Electric Mud (1968).

In 1961, Etta James recorded the song for her début album At Last! Her rendition also served as the B-side to her hit single of that name. Her 1996 re-release charted at #5 on the UK Singles Chart. Blues rock group Foghat released a studio version of “I Just Want to Make Love to You” on their self-titled debut album in 1972. The song was also released as a single and it became their first hit, reaching number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Arguably the most covered of all the Willie Dixon songs, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” has been recorded by The Animals, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Shadows of Knight, Mungo Jerry, Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Paul Rodgers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, April Wine, Robben Ford, Meat Puppets, The Righteous Brothers, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and dozens more.

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Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation

Allman Brothers Band Tribute at Madison Square Garden Re-Broadcast ji

Surviving members of the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND came together Tuesday, March 10 as THE BROTHERS for an acclaimed, sold-out, one-night-only show celebrating 50 years of the iconic American band’s legacy at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In partnership with–the leading live music platform for concert recordings and live streams–the “50th Anniversary Celebration of The Allman Brothers Band” is now available for purchase on in HD or stunning 4K, and will be rebroadcast beginning this Friday (July 3) at 8PM EST – Sunday (July 5) Those who purchase the webcast will also be able to enjoy the show on demand for 48 hours upon first viewing. Both the video and audio have been re-edited and remixed, respectively to give home viewers the best seat in the house for this historic concert. Experience the music of The Allman Brothers in an entirely new way. Now available in Sony’s 360 Reality Audio via Hi-Fi. Listen to The Brothers’ nearly four-hour show as if you were there.

The Brothers consists of founding Allman Brothers Band (ABB) drummer Jaimoe as well as longtime ABB guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussionist Marc Quinones, along with Widespread Panic drummer Duane Trucks and keyboardist Reese Wynans. Former ABB keyboardist (and longtime touring member of the Rolling Stones) Chuck Leavell joined as a special guest for many of the jams he helped create with the ABB.

The March 10 show is the last major concert to have taken place in New York before being shut down because of Covid-19. In a post-show interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jaimoe said, “It just felt like no BS, and all about music and love…I wanted to play music with my brothers. Everyone else is paying homage to the Allman Brothers music-and some of us are still here.” American Songwriter, (which described the show as a “massive success”) talked to Warren Haynes who said, “It was a very surreal night I think for all of us. It would have been under normal circumstances. But as we got closer and closer to show date, we were all wondering if we’re going to be allowed to play. We barely got in under the wire and then the next couple of days, they basically starting shutting down everything and canceling shows everywhere. It’s very bizarre that we turned out to be the last big show like that…I’m really glad that we were able to celebrate the 50th. When (original band member) Jaimoe called everybody and said that he thought that we should do something for the 50th, we all instantly agreed and thought, yeah, let’s do this. In a lot of ways, it was a show that we had talked about doing as the Allman Brothers Band but it never came to fruition. From the first moment of rehearsal it felt wonderful, and it just got better and better. I was very proud of everyone. From a musical standpoint, the band sounded wonderful. But there was so much more at play.”

Speaking with, Derek Trucks recalled, “When we first got to New York about a week before, there were no restrictions and no one was really thinking about [the virus] too much. I was being OCD with Purell, but you eat out; you’re on the road and that’s what you do. But now a thousand things go through your head…So that felt a little weird. But information was rolling out at such a trickle that it was hard to make sense of anything…We were doing four days of rehearsals and everyone was playing that music for the first time in a while and telling stories and remembering people we’d lost. You’re kind of in two different worlds. You’re of two minds. If you postpone six or eight months, you never know how it’s going to be between now and then. But it also felt like one of the last moments for a long time when people would be able to suspend reality and let go.” As for the concert itself, Derek said, “I was really proud of everyone onstage. I thought everyone’s head was in the right place. That’s hard to do. There’s a lot of history with everyone on that stage, and you never know how that’s going to shake out. But it felt good. The spirit felt right.”

The Allman Brothers Band played their first show on March 26, 1969 and went on to embark on a Hall Of Fame career, which came to a close with their final performance on October 28, 2014 at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

Brad Serling, Founder and CEO, added, “We could not be more thrilled about the opportunity to work with The Brothers on this PPV from MSG. The music that these performers helped to create is so incredibly special. We are very thankful to be able to help share this performance with ABB fans around the planet.”

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The Brothers’ March 10, 2020 set list:
Don’t Want You No More/ It’s Not My Cross To Bear
Statesboro Blues
Trouble No More
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Black Hearted Woman
Come and Go Blues
Stand Back

Mountain Jam
Blue Sky
Ain’t Wasting Time No More
Every Hungry Woman
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
No One to Run With
One Way Out
Midnight Rider
Whipping Post

*Feature image: Promotional photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden

Marshall Crenshaw, Yo La Tenga, and More To Perform Benefit Concert For Hoboken Relief Fund

A benefit concert will take place online for the Hoboken Relief Fund to support local businesses affected by COVID-19. Artists scheduled to perform include Marshall Crenshaw, Yo La Tengo, Jim Babjak (The Smithereens), Freedy Johnston, Julio Fernandez (Spyro Gyra), Graham Maby (Joe Jackson Band). Glenn Mercer (The Feelies), N’Kenge (Motown The Musical), Joe Taino, Maxima Alerta, Frankie Morales (Tito Puente Orchestra), Mary Lee Kortes, Rebecca Turner and more. The virtual event goes live on Thursday, June 25 at 7:00pm EDT and can be seen on Facebook Live.

The Mayor of Hoboken, Ravi Bhalla, has asked a group of citizens to form an organization dedicated to help small Hoboken businesses and Hoboken residents weather the economic and financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Called “The Hoboken Relief Fund”, the group solicits donations and provide grants to local businesses and Hoboken residents impacted by the crisis.

The Hoboken Relief Fund is the City of Hoboken’s authorized vehicle for COVID-19 relief, and act in ways as an umbrella for other, ongoing, complementary efforts to address various pressing needs in the community related to COVID-19, such as food insecurity. 

Donations can be made here.

Manouche Bag
Joe Taino
Frankie Morales
Maxima Alerta

Approx. 7:25pm
Isabel Ramos
Erica Butts
Rebecca Turner
Mary Lee Kortes

Approx. 7:50pm
Todd Abramson
Julio Fernandez
Graham Maby (Joe Jackson Band)
Freedy Johnston

Approx. 8:10pm
Jim Babjak (The Smithereens)
Marshall Crenshaw
Glenn Mercer (The Feelies)
Yo La Tengo

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‘Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things’ Virtual Screening Starting Tomorrow

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things will be playing in virtual cinemas June 26 through July 10. Originally scheduled to be released in April, the documentary about the First Lady of Song was postponed due to the pandemic. In the film, director Leslie Woodhead lays bare all the internal struggles and rough patches Fitzgerald endured leading up to her success.

You may not know Ella suffered beatings by reform school caretakers, was taunted relentlessly about her weight, and that she was homeless during the Great Depression. Or that she was just 15 when she lost her mother, and just 17 when she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, elevating her to stardom within months. Ella also fought for civil rights, having been awarded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Equal Justice Award and the American Black Achievement Award.

Ella: Just One of Those Things raises the curtain on who Ella truly was: a thoughtful, funny, and tough musical innovator. The film follows her outstanding journey over six decades as a powerhouse performer whose voice broke down racial barriers. Using never-before-seen images and unheard interviews, Ella is brought to life as a woman who makes her career in the face of unconscionable racism.

At a time when she was the biggest singing star in the world, her pianist and friend Oscar Peterson said Ella was “the loneliest woman in the world.”

Featuring interviews with: Tony Bennett, Jamie Cullum, Laura Mvula, Johnny Mathis, Smokey Robinson, Cleo Laine, Andre Previn, Norma Miller, Patti Austin, Izsak Perlman, Margo Jefferson, Will Friedwald and a rare interview with Ella’s son, Ray Brown Jr.

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Palo Alto: Previously Unknown Recording from Legendary Jazz Pianist Thelonious Monk

The streets of today and the streets of 1968: how far are those poles apart? In fall 1968, a 16-year-old boy by the name of Danny Scher had a vision of bringing jazz pianist Thelonious Monk and his quartet to play a benefit concert at his high school in Palo Alto, California. He wanted to raise funds for his school’s International Committee, and to work towards racial unity in his community. 

Equipped with nothing more than a telephone, posters, and a compelling pitch, this walking jazz encyclopedia with implacable determination made his dream come true. Scher magically secured Monk’s services to perform on October 27, 1968 for $500.

Scher had trouble selling tickets at first, and also had a hard time convincing people that Monk would even be there. After navigating the peaks and valleys along the way, the concert proceeded and even sold out.

Impulse! Records have unveiled the previously unreleased recording in its entirety, set for release on July 31 on DSPs, CD, and vinyl. Through happenstance, the concert was recorded by a Palo Alto High School janitor whose identity still remains unknown to this day. But the janitor gave the tape to Scher who preserved it for over 50 years.

“It was a total pleasure,” spoke Scher of the event. “There was nothing odd. I loved Monk, I loved his music, and I loved producing. It was great seeing Monk dancing around the stage and then coming back to the piano when it was the right time. There was zero drama.”

The lively 47-minute album showcases Monk’s steady touring band (tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, drummer Ben Riley). Included are Monk’s lyrical love song “Ruby My Dear”;  the dynamic “Well You Needn’t” with solos by all members; the pianist’s solo reading of “Don’t Blame Me” by Jimmy McHugh; a magnificent dance through “Blue Monk”; and an exuberant dash through ”Epistrophy.” 

The show ends with a truncated encore of the 1925 Tin Pan Alley hit tune by Rudy Vallée, “I Love You (Sweetheart of All My Dreams).” Following a standing ovation, Monk says his goodbye as the band had to leave to make their San Francisco date that evening. 

Below is the first single, “Epistrophy.”

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For Father’s Day CCR Releases New Video For “Long As I Can See the Light”

Continuing the 50th anniversary of America’s all-time greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Craft Recordings is honored to unveil a special fan-generated video for the beloved Cosmo’s Factory closer, “Long as I Can See the Light.” In the lead-up to Father’s Day 2020, Creedence fans worldwide were encouraged to submit videos and photos documenting cherished memories with their fathers, grandfathers or other guiding lights in their life.

One of many hits on Creedence’s legendary fifth studio album, “Long as I Can See the Light” was released in 1970 as part of a double A-side single with “Lookin’ out My Back Door.” Both songs peaked at number two in the U.S., and despite Creedence having never played “Long as I Can See the Light” live, it became a fan favorite. Over the years, the song has taken on different meanings, but John Fogerty has stated that the song is “about the loner in me. Wanting to feel understood, needing those at home to shine a light so that I can make my way back.”

Released on July 16, 1970, Cosmo’s Factory remarkably stood as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s fifth full-length in two-years. The album, which borrowed its name from drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford (who often referred to the band’s practice space as “The Factory”), followed a highly prolific year for CCR, in which the Berkeley, CA band released three Billboard Top Ten albums in 12 months. Cosmo’s Factory would continue the group’s momentum, taking Clifford, frontman John Fogerty, guitarist Tom Fogerty, and bassist Stu Cook to the height of their success. For the second time, Creedence topped the album chart in the US, while they scored their first No. 1 in the UK, Canada, and Australia, among other territories, firmly cementing their status as international rock stars.

Now, a half-century after its release, Cosmo’s Factory will gain a new vibrancy, thanks to the exacting process of half-speed mastering. Using high-res transfers from the original analog tapes, the mastering process involves playing back the audio at half its recorded speed, while the cutting lathe is turned at half the desired playback speed. The technique allows more time to cut a micro-precise groove, resulting in more accuracy with frequency extremes and dynamic contrasts. The result on the turntables is an exceptional level of sonic clarity and punch. This special pressing was previously available only as part of CCR’s collectible, seven-LP Studio Albums Collection box set.

The tradition of musical inheritance is strong among CCR appreciators: The band’s timeless albums have been proudly passed down from generation to generation. Music’s capacity to draw people together is more important now than ever, so while many may be unable to be physically near their loved ones this Father’s Day, the hope is that this “Long as I Can See the Light” video will help remind families just how deeply they’re connected.

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Available for pre-order now, the audiophile edition of Cosmo’s Factory comes housed in a tip-on jacket, replicating the original packaging.


Savoy Brown Proves They ‘Ain’t Done Yet’

Legendary blues-rock band Savoy Brown, birthed in London 55 years ago and long-based in upstate New York, announces the August 28 release of their exciting new album, Ain’t Done Yet, on Quarto Valley Records. Their latest disc follows on the heels of Savoy Brown’s highly-successful 2019 CD, City Night.

Bruce Quarto, QVR founder and CEO said, “Quarto Valley Records is honored to continue working with Savoy Brown on this second QVR release, Ain’t Done Yet, which is now one of my all-time favorites. It’s full of great energy that is the trademark of all their blues-rock music, and everyone who hears it will immediately agree that Savoy Brown ain’t nowhere near done yet.”

“The new album is a continuance of the approach I’ve been taking with the band this past decade,” says guitarist/singer/songwriter Kim Simmonds, who formed the band in 1965 in London, England, and is one of the longest running blues/rock bands in existence. “The big difference with the new album is the multi-layer approach I took to recording the guitar parts. It’s all blues-based rock music. I try to find new and progressive ways to write and play the music I’ve loved since I was a young teenager.”

Simmonds has been the group’s guiding hand from the first singles released in 1966 through this newest effort, Savoy Brown’s 41st album release. On the new record, Simmonds (guitar harmonica and vocals) is once again joined by his long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums).

“I recorded Ain’t Done Yet at Showplace Studios in New Jersey, where I’ve recorded many times before,” Simmonds affirms. “Owner/engineer Ben Elliott passed away shortly after the recording and I’ve dedicated the album to him.”

Energetic blues has been the calling card of the band from the beginning, but Simmonds infuses the 10 tracks on Ain’t Done Yet with a new spirit and vitality – plus some serious guitar chops – in a variety of styles and roots sounds that transcend the blues-rock idiom. “I emphasized song content on the new album, yet I left plenty of room for band improvisation,” he admits. “For instance, there are two acoustic-based songs and also two six-minute songs where I’m able to stretch out on guitar solos.”

Ain’t Done Yet kicks-off in high gear with the album’s first radio focus track, “All Gone Wrong.” “I’ve always liked ‘All Gone Wrong,’ and it’s one of my favorites on the album,” declares Simmonds.

Blues-rock became the catch-all phrase in the late 1960s to describe the band’s musical genre along with that of contemporaries such as Cream, John Mayall and Jimi Hendrix. In fact, in the 2013 drama film Jimi: All Is By My Side, a Savoy Brown song written by Simmonds, “Train To Nowhere,” was included in the soundtrack.

Many of Savoy Brown’s singles and albums have appeared on the Billboard Hot Hundred charts, including songs such as “I’m Tired” and “Tell Mama,” as well as  albums such as Hellbound Train and Street Corner Talking. In 2017, the band’s Witchy Feelin’ album reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.

Savoy Brown established national status in the 1970s headlining iconic stages such as Carnegie Hall, The Academy of Music and the Fillmore East and West.

Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds have a body of work that is matched by only a small portion of musical artists. As they continue to tour the world, young and old find inspiration in their energy, timeless music, classic style and ageless performances.

And as the title of their new CD attests, Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds Ain’t Done Yet. “I still have plenty of energy and I have never stopped enjoying entertaining a crowd and giving people inspiration,” he avows.

Savoy Brown will support the release of Ain’t Done Yet with a late summer tour that extends through 2021.

*Feature image by Juan Junco courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

The Story Behind The Story Behind The Song: “Every Breath You Take,” by The Police, Written by Sting

Is the purported story behind this beloved song true? Or it it an instance of intentional revionism?

The story behind this song is one often told. But it never seemed entirely genuine, and smacked of a kind of songwriter revisionism, when a songwriter changes the facts about the original intention or meaning of a song. 

It wouldn’t be the first time that a songwriter fudged the facts about the meaning of a famous song. A potential example is Paul McCartney’s beautiful “Blackbird,” which several writers suggested it not about birds, but about racism. Though he never mentioned that interpretation for decades, he started using it often. In 2002, talking to the great L.A. radio host Chris Douridas, McCartney said that only recently did he remember why he’d written it. And then confirmed that, yes, it is about racism. 

That one smacks of revisionism, though there is no proof. Is there?

The story behind the story behind “Every Breath You Take,” however, is more clearly defined. It seemed like revisionism at first, and now, after some investigation, we know the truth. Which is that the story behind this song as commonly told now is erroneous.

It is the most popular song Sting has ever written, as it’s one of the biggest hits ever. Yet it’s also one of his simplest songs, with a common chord sequence, simple melody and fairly basic words. Of course, simplicity is a virtue in songwriting; that fundamental folk song tune has the same changes as “Stand By Me” and so many other songs. With these simple words of love, all neatly rhymed, and a lovely melody, it’s extemely appealing.

Also Andy Summers’ arpeggiated guitar part punctuates it perfectly, as does Stewart Copeland’s drums. Unlike other fairly heavyweight subjects on the same album, such as the title song Synchronicity, it seemed surprisingly sunny and romantic. It became the signature song of The Police, and one of the biggest radio hits of all time. It won the Grammy in 1983 for Best Song of the Year.

Yet Sting has always seemed a little ashamed of its simplicity, as if that disqualifies it to be so much more loved and popular than those songs which offered more overt evidence of his brilliance. Rather than celebrate his ability to create a song so pure that the masses loved it more than any of his songs, he would disparage its simplicity. 

“The song has the standard structure of a pop ballad,” he said, “but there is no harmonic development after the middle eight, no release of emotions.” 

He then started embellishing the story to tell us there was more to this song than we knew. 

“The song is very, very sinister,” Sting said to the BBC, “and ugly. And people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite.”

This is the story which everyone now accepts as truth: although it seems sunny, it’s dark. Scary, stalkerish dark. It was a story which caught on immediately. Evidently people love the idea of a song meaning something other than what it seems to be. Proof of this are the endless online stories which state this as the official meaning of this famous song. Who knew?

Yet a little research confirmed that which we long suspected. Revisionism.

In 1991, to UK’s The Independent, Sting spoke of the origins of the song, admitting  his own revisionism:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head,” he said, “sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song.”

Then he said:

I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, of surveillance and control.”

There is the admission:

I didn’t realize at the time.” And “.. I think I was thinking…”

In another interview from 1991, he was open about this shift, saying the song offers “no release of emotions or change in the point of view of the protagonist. He is trapped in his circular obsessions.”

Yes. Then comes the key admission:
Of course,” he says, “I wasn’t aware of any of this. I thought I was just writing a hit song, and indeed it became one of the songs that defined the ’80s, and by accident the perfect sound track for Reagan’s Star Wars fantasy of control and seduction.”

There is confirmation that the sinister reading of this lyric was never part of the songwriter’s intention. So it does not qualify as the true story behind the song. It is a revised story. It was, as he said, not intended as sinister while writing it; that darkness was only added to it later. Which, though it might work, is simply false.

“Of course,” said Sting, “I wasn’t aware of any of this. I just thought I was just writing a hit song!”

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The Police, “Every Breath You Take.”

“Every Breath You Take”
By Sting

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

Since you’ve gone I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying, “Baby, baby, please”

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
I’ll be watching you

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