By: Bob DeMoss
A security guard at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry checked my name and ID against the guest list.
With a nod, he directed me backstage to one of the eighteen, uniquely themed dressing rooms to meet country legend, Charlie Daniels. As I approached, I heard Charlie’s unmistakable deep baritone voice above the laughter spilling out into the hallway. Reaching the door, I found that the room was packed.
The Country Music Hall of Famer, standing at the far side, was holding court with fans, family, and friends before his Opry appearance that evening. His Stetson cowboy hat, perched atop of his 6’2” frame, towered above the crowd and served as a beacon of sorts as I made my way to him.
Here was the man whose music I first heard back in 1979 when his hit song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, topped the country music and Billboard charts. I knew he had played with some of the biggest names in the business — from Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and The Marshall Tucker Band, to Hank Williams Jr. and Ringo Starr. Barbara Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, and the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley, all had recorded songs written by the fiery fiddle-playing man.
But I had learned that this rebel-rousing, hard-driving musician had returned to his childhood faith in Christ.
At the time, I had an idea for a new book called Country Faith – – a collection of favorite Bible verses and reflections from 56 of Country music’s biggest legends and rising stars. I thought Charlie would be perfect for the project.
Moments later, having navigated the crowd, I introduced myself as an Associate Publisher for Zondervan. Upon hearing that, Charlie broke into a smile which almost didn’t fit on his face. Placing his arm around my shoulders, he announced to the room, “This here is Bob DeMoss, my new best friend!”
I heard Charlie never met a stranger and was about as friendly as they come, but that pronouncement puzzled me. Charlie went on to explain that he had recorded a spoken-word version of the New Testament but didn’t realize he needed a license for the NIV translation from Zondervan before he could distribute copies. He wondered whether I could help him get his request “unstuck” from where the approval had evidently gotten bogged down in the process.
I assured him I’d help him out.
With just a few minutes before Charlie had to perform, I pitched him my Country Faith idea and asked if he’d like to participate.
“Bob,” he replied, “that’s easy. My favorite passage is the 91st Psalm. It’s a Psalm of God’s care and protection. I’ve memorized the whole thing.”
Daniels went on to describe almost being shot down over Iraq when he and The Charlie Daniels Band went to entertain the troops but experienced God’s faithful protection. That initial meeting was the beginning of his partnership on several Country Faith books and CDs.
Here are some highlights of an interview I had the privilege of doing with Charlie:
Over the years, what has impressed me most was Charlie’s love of scripture and his heart to see others meet the Savior. I had the chance to visit with Charlie at his home to talk about his love of Jesus, God’s provision when he suffered a stroke while snowmobiling near Durango, Colorado, and his thankfulness that the Bible holds the key life.
I was deeply saddened by the news that Charlie had died earlier this week at age 83. But then I reminded myself that the Devil might have gone down to Georgia, there’s no doubt this saint has graduated to glory.
And, I’m convinced his greatest wish would be for those who don’t yet know the Savior to make their peace with God today. Meanwhile, see if his rendition of “I’ll Fly Way” doesn’t get your feet ‘a stomping.
Bob DeMoss is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and collaborator of more than 50 books including The Mind Siege Project and The Devil in Pew Number Seven.