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Charlie Daniels returns to Shenandoah County Fair

Charlie Daniels will perform at the Shenandoah County Fair on Thursday. Courtesy photo

Charlie Daniels is apologetic that he doesn’t remember the first time he performed at the Shenandoah County Fair.

After all, the Music Hall of Fame performer and his band have played thousands of venues since Daniels started singing and stroking his fiddle in the 1950’s and still books more than 100 performances a year.

“I’m glad to be going back,” said Daniels. “I will remember (the fairgrounds) when I get there.”

That will be in Woodstock on Thursday, and while Daniels may not remember the fairgrounds from his last confirmed visit in 1994, he fondly remembers and tries to visit the Shenandoah Valley as often as he can.

“Aside from being one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is a comfort place and the kind of people I was raised around, my kind of people,” he said in a recent phone interview. “We’re looking forward to getting back there and entertaining you folks.”

“It’s a fun place to be,” he said, adding he was looking forward to the “meet and greet” the 82-year-old icon still holds prior to a performance. “I’m usually pretty worn out by the time I finish the show, and I’m on the bus and gone.”

In every performance, Daniels said they try “some new things” while bringing back familiar hits like “Saddle Tramp.”

“They come to see you because they want to hear songs they have heard on the radio,” he said. “People expect them and deserve them.”

And Daniel always plays his 1979 signature song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” where the devil lost the fiddle contest, and the song remains popular even today on country music stations.

Daniels was upset 10 years ago when someone finagled a change in the no longer copyrighted song and let the devil win.

“I didn’t like the way it was portrayed,” said Daniels. “I am a Christian, and I never let the devil win.”

Signing Daniels for the fair was a coup for Tom Eschelman, general manager of the fair, who noted: “He was on our radar, and he hadn’t been in the (fair) for some time, and we were able to make it work for our dates. We were fortunate he had the availability.”

Daniels is a living icon who grew up listening to Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands, rhythm and blues and country music.

He is a member of the Musician’s Hall of Fame and Museum and has had hit songs in rock, county and bluegrass, and is also a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

“They truly are honors, and all mean something to me when I honestly feel there are so many people who deserve it more than me,” he said.

In addition to being a musician he has authored two books titled “Never Look at the Empty Seats: A Memoir” and “Ain’t No Rag: Freedom, Family, and the Flag.”

And he has authored a third book soon to be released titled “Let’s All Make the Day Count,” which he described as a ” kind of inspirational, smaller book about things I have done, lessons I have learned and Bible scripture.”

“The word retirement is not even in my vocabulary right now,” said Daniels. “We are already picking dates for next year.”

Married 54 years with a son 53 and two grandchildren, Daniels said he hopes they understand.

“They have never known me when I wasn’t on the road; it’s just what I do. I love it. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life,” he said.