–By Michael Pierce
Never Look At The Empty Seats: A Memoir by Charlie Daniels
I’ve been a fan of The Charlie Daniels Band for as long as I can remember, so I was really looking forward to his memoir. I wasn’t disappointed.
Daniels was born and raised in a small town in North Carolina. He worked in tobacco fields and lumber mills in his youth, and these are the places where he cut his teeth on music.
Never Look At The Empty Seats chronicles Daniels’ love of family, music, and God. Like many country music artists, he began performing in church at a young age. As he grew older he decided that music was how he wanted to make a living. He formed a number of cover bands over the years until important folks from Nashville caught wind of his skills. He began as a session musician in Nashville in the early 1960s, playing on seminal albums such as Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. He began forming CDB in the mid sixties, and he’s never looked back.
Charlie is a man of strong will and strong faith. He was a deep seated religious sense that goes along with his upbringing. He also has a strong musical sense that leads to all styles of music showing up on just about every Charlie Daniels Band album. Give a listen and you’ll hear influences from Duke Ellington to Leonard Cohen to the Allman Brothers Band.
Perhaps the most moving chapters in the book are about the untimely deaths of CDB guitarist Tommy Crain and keyboard player Taz DeGregorio. Daniels is at his best as he writes of his love for two of the band’s co-founders and the influence each had on his songwriting and musical style. Crain is right up there with Dickey Betts and Duane Allman when it comes to Southern Rock, and listeners can hear influences of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk in DeGregorio’s piano stylings.
It’s hard to believe that Daniels is 81 years old. Time and age have caught up with him just a little bit. He’s lost a portion of a finger (thankfully on his right hand), had a stroke a few years ago, and recently had a pacemaker implanted. He’s slowed down a little, but not much.
Charlie is a deeply religious man, giving thanks to God (and medical science) for his recovery from recent setbacks. He also has strong political opinions, and he devotes a chapter to each of these subjects. Although I disagree with some of his views I respect them, and I’m thankful he doesn’t take to the airwaves to voice them, as do some celebrities nowadays.
Finally, Never Look At The Empty Seats is a book all about family, friends, and fun. Give it a read and you’ll develop a better picture of the man.