131st NGAUS General Conference
Charlie Daniels | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

Gulf native and country music legend Charlie Daniels has passed away from a stroke Monday morning at the age of 83.

Daniels is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame best known for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia. He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr.

He lived most of his teen years in the Goldston/Gulf area, graduating from Goldston High School in 1955 and then moving to Sanford to work for a local electronics company.

It was in Gulf where his friend Russell Palmer taught Daniels to play on an old, beat-up guitar. From a recent Our State Magazine feature:

The Palmers had lived in Gulf for generations. Charlie and Russell became best friends. They’d sit around the radio on Saturday nights, listening to the Grand Ole Opry. It was only later that Charles E. Daniels became Charlie Daniels, the man who made the fiddle into a radio-friendly instrument, one forever associated with the South.

Daniels began his long career in the late 1950s. In 1975, his “Fire on the Mountain” album went double platinum. In 1979, his “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” topped both country and pop charts, became a platinum single, and won a Grammy Award and three CMA trophies. Daniel’s “Million Mile Reflections” album, which included the song, hit triple-platinum, and he was named CMA Musician of the Year. His successes continued. In 1999, Daniels was named TNN/Music City News “Living Legend.” In 2008, he fulfilled a life-long dream by becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Charlie Daniels with current Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Central Carolina Small Business Banquet. Photo from CCCC

Daniels was the special guest of honor at the 2008 Central Carolina Small Business Banquet in Sanford, where he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. While he didn’t perform that night, he did speak upon receiving his award.

“After all these years, I’ve still got some tar on my heels,” Daniels said. “I thank you for claiming me still as one of you.”

His career hasn’t been without controversy. From NCPedia:

Charlie Daniels’ music has been the cause of social outcry on several occasions. His 1989 single “Simple Man” shocked some listeners for its proposal that drug dealers should be lynched and that child abusers should be fed to alligators. Daniels had to state publicly that “Obviously I’m being facetious with the song.” Daniels was less apologetic for his patriotic song “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” which he issued in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. While some listeners complained that the song was offensive to Muslims, Daniels has maintained that the song refers specifically to Al Qaeda terrorists and to no others.

The Rant wrote about Daniels’ Twitter account back in 2018, noting that while his political views were often extremely right-wing and often gibberish, the account itself was also full of incredible photos and stories of country music history.

The Rant’s Jonathan Owens interviewing Daniels at the Small Business Banquet in 2008.

This story is ongoing and will be updated as details emerge.