Commentary

Charlie Daniels Jr.: Happy Heavenly Birthday

By Charlie Daniels Jr. | October 26, 2020 | 4:45pm EDT
Charlie Daniels performs during FOX News Channel's "FOX & Friends" All-American Summer Concert Series. (Photo credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
Charlie Daniels performs during FOX News Channel's "FOX & Friends" All-American Summer Concert Series. (Photo credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

I started writing a soapbox and then shelved it when I realized what was staring at mom and me later this week: Dad’s birthday on Wednesday.

This is the first of the “Sadiversaries” that I wrote about recently. It seemed so much further off when I wrote about them; now it’s almost here.

This will be difficult. There were plenty of times when dad wasn’t home for his birthday, but I don’t ever remember not speaking to him and wishing him a Happy Birthday, so it’s going to be rough.

But it’s not me I’m concerned about. I’ll be sad, but I’ll muddle through as I have been, but I’m concerned about mom. I don’t think she has missed a birthday with dad since she started touring with dad after I graduated high school.

So, please keep her in your prayers this week.

Most of the time, celebrating dad’s birthday was a low-key occasion when they were home. Mom would make dinner and a cake, and we’d just hang out at Twin Pines.

There have been a few that were more memorable.

On dad’s 60th birthday, the final of the original Volunteer Jams was held as an acoustic event at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall. Just a few of the special guests were Lorrie Morgan, Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, John Berry, Blackhawk, and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Before the show, I researched it, and found out that the song that dad had co-written that was recorded by Elvis Presley called “It Hurts Me” was on a greatest hits collection, "Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 4," that had itself gone gold, so we were able to present him with an Elvis Presley gold record for his 60th. I was very happy we were able to get that for him.

A few days before dad’s 70th birthday – in 2006 – we were in Hong Kong. We had planned this trip for a while, and we had a great time. We were traveling with several friends and had dinner at Jumbo Kingdom, a local Chinese restaurant with an amazing atmosphere and a very unique building. 

It floats.

It’s essentially on a very large flat barge with the three-story restaurant built on top of it. Since it sits in Aberdeen Harbor, it kind of looks like a large riverboat with an Asian flair.

Inside, we had a private dining room complete with two ladies playing some authentic music from the region, a zither and what is called an erhu, which is played with a bow like a fiddle, but with only two strings.

At one point before our food came, the ladies serenaded us with a somewhat familiar tune, someone had arranged for the ladies to chart out and perform a one-minute scaled-down version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Dad was highly surprised and amused. They played an encore of it for us later and dad was so intrigued, he actually bought an erhu while we were still in Hong Kong.

I don’t think he ever learned to play it.

On dad’s actual birthday, we were in a revolving restaurant on the Hong Kong Island side and celebrated by watching the Hong Kong buildings' dancing lights and eating a cake covered with fruit. I still have the “70” candles from that night.

Dad’s 80th was a two-month celebration with multiple events including the Charlie Daniels 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam on Nov. 30 with special guests 3 Doors Down, Larry the Cable Guy, Kid Rock, Luke Bryan, and Chris Stapleton to name a few, but the day after his Oct. 28 birthday, we had a party in the rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Dad had just been formally inducted into the Hall of Fame about two weeks earlier, so it was the perfect place to have the party, which included two cakes in the shape of guitars, one in the shape of a fiddle, and lots of guests.

I was thrilled to be able to unveil something that I had been working on for a few months, off and on. It was a video of different TV, movie, and commercial appearances of dad, the band, or CDB songs, including, of course, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” 

The inspiration – oddly enough – came from “Weird Al” Yankovic. I had seen him in concert a few months earlier. Al’s show includes a lot of costume changes, and while he’s changing offstage, a large screen would show different appearances in film or on TV, or just being the punchline to a joke on something like an episode of “Friends,” and it got me thinking about how many similar appearances dad and his music had over the years.

The finished video was about 20 minutes long and included mostly quick clips of appearances, songs, or references from movies like "Urban Cowboy," "Superstar," "Coyote Ugly," "The Waterboy," and "The Dukes of Hazard," commercials for UPS, Skoal, and GEICO, and TV shows like "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "King of the Hill," "Futurama," "Mystery Science Theatre 3000," "Robot Chicken," "Saturday Night Live," "The Muppet Show," and much more.

It’s a fast-paced tour of dad’s career and the impact dad had on music and pop culture in general. 

So many memories, and that’s all we have now, but I treasure each and every one of them.

As energetic as dad was, it was not hard to imagine planning his 90th birthday in six years.

I used to say that if dad was forced to retire, that I didn’t know if he would last very long, since he loved to perform so much. It wasn’t a retirement, but I still have a gnawing at me that if dad had been able to keep performing, that he might still be going strong, but I can’t think like that. It was his time.

I also used to say that I hope I had half his energy when I got to be his age.

That would truly be a blessing.

Happy heavenly Birthday, dad. You are missed every day, and I thank you for everything you did to take care of mom and me for more than 55 years.

I love you.

What do you think?

Pray for our troops, our police, our country, and the peace of Jerusalem.

God Bless America!

--Charlie Daniels, Jr.

Charlie Daniels, Jr. is the son of legendary American singer, song writer, guitarist, and fiddler Charlie Daniels.

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