Charlie Daniels was honored Wednesday evening (March 7) by his peers and thousands of his biggest fans during Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute to Charlie at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The four-hour concert boasted a diverse roster of country and rock acts including Alabama, the Oak Ridge Boys, Chris Young, Justin Moore, Chris Janson, Montgomery Gentry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Ricky Skaggs, among others.
The initial Volunteer Jam began 44 years ago when Daniels needed a live recording of “Orange Blossom Special” for his album, Fire On the Mountain. He invited several friends to jam on the song with him and four decades later it has become a yearly affair.
Throughout the show, several artists shared Daniels’ influence on them. Acts like Sara Evans, Jamey Johnson and Travis Tritt praised the country legend as one of their heroes and a musical mainstay throughout their lives. Fittingly, many acts chose to cover the Country Music Hall of Famer’s greatest hits for their performance.
“Charlie Daniels is one of my heroes, not only for country music but a great human being,” Justin Moore said as he took the stage. “I’m proud to be a part of tonight.”
Moore then launched into a commanding performance of Daniels’ “Simple Man.” The energy never wavered during the evening and the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Chris Janson, kept the crowd roaring with a spirited rendition of “(What This World Needs Is) a Few More Rednecks.” Backed by an all-star band led by musical director Don Was, Janson brought his unyielding musical talent and his jaw-dropping harmonica skills to the arena.
Fellow Grand Ole Opry member Chris Young added his own vigor with the rollicking throwback “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.” It’s a song he needed no rehearsal for as he told the audience it used to be a staple in his sets. “I used to do this song back in my bar gig days and if there were six people in there, I knew they’d sing along to this one.”
Highlights included Eddie Montgomery’s spirited return to the stage as he performed Montgomery Gentry’s “My Town,” and Travis Tritt’s three-song set of “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “It Hurts Me,” which Daniels wrote.
“Charlie Daniels has been one of my dearest friends from the very beginning,” Tritt recalls. “He was one of the first people that took me under his wing. So, as a tribute tonight to Charlie, I want to do a song that was one of the first big cuts he had as a songwriter. This song that he wrote was recorded by none other than the great Elvis Presley.”
While country music was an obvious mainstay throughout the concert, Billy Gibbons, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackberry Smoke, Devon Allman and Duane Betts brought the rock ‘n’ roll and plenty of guitar riffs. Meanwhile, the Charlie Daniels Band continued the party with a riveting performance of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” among other hits.
The 20th Volunteer Jam closed with an epic two-song jam between many of the night’s performers and an award for the man behind the event. Glen Campbell’s son, Travis, presented Daniels with the Tennessee National Guard Minute Man Award for his continued support of the military. Fittingly, proceeds from the concert were donated to The Journey Home Project, a non-profit that helps veterans with rehabilitation, reintegration and opportunities as they transition to civilian life.