When you have a famous father sometimes you have two fathers. You have the one that everyone “knows” and you have the one you know. During my lifetime I have met many people from all walks of life. When my parents met Charlie and his wife, Hazel and their son Charlie, we became friends like family. The Daniels and the L’Amour families became friends in the mid 1970’s and vacationed together in the summers in Colorado and the winters as well. As Charlie, Jr and I grew up our times together with our moms and dads became fewer but the parents stayed good friends. Eventually The Daniels’ bought a place near ours in Colorado. Charlie and Hazel spent the month of January there as did my mom after my dad passed away. Charlie and Hazel are constants in my life and in many ways one more touchstone to my dad.
Last week Charlie took his leave. It was sudden and quick and all the more shocking for it. I am still putting together how I feel so I will share a memory or two here that I will never forget. Dad and Charlie were more a like than different. They were both gracious men who made everyone feel important and listened to and they appreciated their fans. Charlie would come to Durango, put on a trucker cap and a t shirt and not be recognized(even when In America debuted at the top of the charts) but occasionally they would be recognized and they would sign autographs and listen to what people had to say. Their natures were similar, and time with their families where what made them the happiest.
As there was the public and the private father in my life so there was in Charlie Jr’s. When we met it was the first time I had a friend who really got it. Our Dad’s stars rose at similar times and though each had been very successful before, the late 70’s and the 80’s were when they both became household names. Charlie, big Charlie, was someone I always felt I could talk to about my private dreams of writing songs and singing. I was singing in choir, doing musicals and even singing in a restaurant bar in Durango one summer. I was underage so I sang early. Charlie and Hazel came and listened with Little Charlie and I loved that they were there. But that is not the story.
We wanted to take them on the Durango to Silverton train. https://www.instagram.com/dsngrr/ is an 1880’s coal fired train ride that takes 3 and 1/2 hours to go between the towns through some of the most spectacular country you will ever see. It turned out that one of the private cars would be returning to Durango and we got to ride it back. That was a completely restored caboose that was privately owned. I had been on the train every summer for years and years but that train ride was different. Charlie and I sat on the back platform of the caboose and watched the tracks disappear into the woods. And we sang. We sang most of the way down. We sang musical theatre songs, American songbook songs(you know all those fabulous pre and post WWII songs), we sang folk songs. He loved music, all music and found value in everyone he met. We just sang. The joy of voices lifting up into the mountains around us. It is a moment I will never forget.
I was well known in high school as being a Charlie Daniels Band fan. One science teacher and I used to burst into one of his songs when we passed on campus.” He wasn’t even my teacher! I wish we had more pictures. I am sure my mother has many at the house. I used two of his songs in papers for papers, one in 8th grade on The Grapes Of Wrath and the other for a paper in Government when I was a senior.
The last time I saw Charlie play (the picture at the top) he was at a club near where I live and my husband and I went to see him. He had us sitting stage left so we got to watch the audience and the performance and visit with him after the show. Honestly, as I think back I went to dozens of Charlie’s concerts and only sat in the audience for one or two. The rest I was off stage in the wings watching the band and the fans.
I am glad to say that I did correspond with Charlie over the years so even if I didn’t see him in person we did keep in touch a bit. The last time was in late March when he learned my family and I were all sick with Covid19. He made sure I knew he was praying for us and we reminisced a bit. I look forward to sharing Charlie stories with his family, but for now we continue to shelter in place, wear our masks, and avoid crowds.
I learned a lesson when I was 19-that I should never let anyone pass through my life without knowing the value they brought to it. I hope Charlie knew.