Don’t let the number fool you — Daniels was seemingly bulletproof and performed in a manner that signified his preparedness and prowess as a showman.
“It’s been a crazy little couple of weeks here,” the original Marshall Tucker Band frontman told Fox News of the exact moment he received the devastating news of Daniels’ passing. “I got a call from Charlie’s people up there and it floored me. I had to sit down. I was downstairs and outside and it just floored me.”
“They said Charlie’s gone — and I said, Charlie who? You know — because, I mean — Charlie was supposed to live on forever. He was the one guy that had the strength of ten men.”
Gray, 72, said he and Daniels had spoken as recently as three weeks before the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” crooner died and the matter of conversation was how the pair could continue to entertain people amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Together, they were planning something big.
“Three weeks ago, Charlie called me up,” explained Gray, adding that of all of his celebrity and Hall of Fame friends and peers in the music and entertainment business, Gray had Daniels’ number saved as “Unknown 1.”
“We don’t talk on the phone very much — there was no need to because we’re going to see each other,” Gray continued. “We continuously played together on and off all these years, but we’d look forward to putting this ‘Fire on the Mountain’ thing together. And where our song ‘Fire on the Mountain’ had did [sic] good, his album ‘Fire on the Mountain’ had done good — so we have tried for 15 years or so to try to put me and him together and Marshall Tucker Band together with Charlie so that we could go out and do the show. And you never knew what was gonna happen.”
Gray quipped that the exorbitant amount of fun he and Daniels often shared on the road over 50 years of friendship “ain’t suitable to print so it don’t [sic] matter” but said such tales are legendary in nature.
“We covered for a lot of bands that got in trouble. Not saying that we never got in trouble because we did. All of us, all the bands — us, [Lynyrd] Skynyrd and everybody,” Gray said, struggling to contain his laughter. “And one of us had to go down the front desk and say, ‘I don’t know how that TV went up in smoke like it did.’ It was a beer. It was a beer being poured down the back of it is what it was.”
And the alleged culprit of the nefarious act?
“Ronnie van Zant was the guy that had done it and I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but I’d say that the attitude that we were having back then 300 days a year – yeah, it’s likely,” Gray recalled. “And when the B.B. guns were flying — everybody had one and all of a sudden, we were all in Oswego, N.Y., one time — that was five days off because of snow. We were stuck, man.”
Doug Gray of The Marshall Tucker Band during The Marshall Tucker Band Performs at The Atlanta Stadium – June 5, 1976 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)
Gray pressed: “So somebody went to across over there and bought a bunch of B.B. guns and pellet guns, and so every time somebody looked out in the hallway, somebody would open up the door and shoot down that way with a pellet gun.”
Such shenanigans helped the boys pass the time while out on the road and created deep memories in the process.
“And that was the way that we were, you know. I mean, we went in as a group to everything that we did. Their management, our management, all those guys stood behind us 100 percent and decided that things were supposed to be done or not done,” Gray lamented.
“Charlie was there as well and when we got together, the same team, along with Red Light Management, there was nobody to hold us back. It was bad enough for a bunch of rednecks like us to walk into a bar or restaurant and people wanting to know whether they need to run out the back door or not — because we were a team of what military was left in all of us.”
Toy Caldwell of The Marshall Tucker Band during The Marshall Tucker Band Performs at Columbia Auditorium – March 18, 1975, at Columbia Municipal Auditorium in Columbia, S.C. (Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage)
The U.S. Army Veteran grew somber when he recalled his fondest memory of the singer-songwriter that developed through Daniels’ strong relationship with former Marshall Tucker Band member Toy Caldwell.
“Toy and [Daniels] got along really good, it was almost like they were inseparable as far as being out on tour. And they were friends off stage as well,” said Gray. “I remember walking down the hallway on the first floor of a hotel we were staying in — and we were doing 300 shows a year but we couldn’t afford but six or seven hotel rooms between both bands — and I look in the room because we never shut the curtains and I saw Toy sitting in a chair and Charlie sitting on the bed and they’re talking about another particular song that they heard from somebody else on the radio.”
While Gray said he couldn’t quite remember which record had caught the ears of Caldwell and Daniels, he said that moment spurred a friendship that “got bigger and bigger and greater and greater until Toy passed away [in 1993].”
“It was never anything that we didn’t expect. We knew that we couldn’t live long forever, but we also didn’t expect Charlie to pass,” Gray maintained. “But because of the simple reason that he was bigger than life, he was a light that was never supposed to burn out. He was the gift to all the musicians that are sitting on their a– right now and not learning about the music business because they’ve got plenty of time to learn.”
(Courtesy of Charlie Daniels)
“And Charlie was well-versed in that part of it because we all had built record companies and things like then and been tossed around with different management companies. But we got together on that.”
Gray said together, Caldwell and Daniels could drum up an original song in a matter of minutes and Caldwell always insisted on Gray’s voice as the acting vessel.
“They were able to make that connection to how to make songs,” Gray said with a laugh. “They didn’t have to produce them, all they had to do was say them and Toy would always look at me — and this is my way of remembering Toy — Toy would always say, ‘Write this down real quick and then make it where you can sing it.’ And that’s why I sang 99 percent them songs.”
Gray has no doubt Daniels is on stage in heaven, playing to the masses and one thing is certain: “There will always be a Charlie Daniels in everybody from now on,” he said.
“And I think because of his ability to instill in all of us a moment of proudness for our flag and for other people, he’ll never be forgotten.”