Gregg Allman died on Saturday. He was 69. One of the pioneers of southern rock and one of the greatest blues singers ever, the founding member of the Allman Brothers Band will always be remembered for the influence he’s had on popular music. And that influence could definitely be felt Saturday at the Wharf Amphitheater in Orange Beach when The Charlie Daniels Band and Alabama played an almost-sold out show under the stars.
Daniels was a part of the early southern rock scene. In fact, his 1970 eponymous debut album is a southern rock classic. If you haven’t heard “Thirty Nine Miles From Mobile” in a while, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Daniels and CDB hit the stage ready to roll — there is nothing about Charlie Daniels that says 80 years old, which he turned in 2016. I hope and pray I can still do whatever I do as well as Charlie Daniels can handle a crowd of 10,000 people. Although the sound went out on CDB a few times, Daniels was patient and the show went on — this wasn’t his first ride around the block.
Although Daniels is widely associated with the fiddle, his abilities as a guitarist are often overlooked. And he’s a beast when he whips out the sunburst Gibson Les Paul, which he used for several numbers Saturday including “Trudy” and the burner “Caballo Diablo” from 1974’s “Fire On The Mountain.” He also rocked the Les Paul on “The Legend of Wooly Swamp” and “In America,” which included a shout out to the Alabama Crimson Tide, which must have been hard for a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan. But Daniels knows how to work his crowd.
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He paid tribute to Allman on Saturday with a rendition of the gospel classic “How Great Thou Art.” There was probably not a dry eye left in the house.
In full disclosure, I’ve been a fan of Charlie Daniels since I was a child when Santa Claus brought me “Million Mile Reflection” on vinyl when I was nine. Daniels was also the first musician I interviewed — 15 years ago. I’ve interviewed him enough times over the years that we now have a rapport, especially when it comes to SEC football. I also like his music so much that in 1993, I drove the almost 650 miles from West Point, Mississippi to see him play in a venue at Disney World.
But most important, he’s a good man and he was also very nice to wife and our son, Charlie, before the Orange Beach show. My Charlie is two and he, too, loves Charlie Daniels.
Alabama in Alabama
As a longtime fan of the band Alabama, seeing Alabama perform in Orange Beach, Alabama was pretty amazing. The show was the first on the band’s latest tour — which will be the first tour without founding member Jeff Cook, who announced earlier this year that he has Parkinson’s disease.
Randy Owen, who, in my opinion, is the greatest singer in country music, and Teddy Gentry kicked off the show with “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” and the crowd was on their feet and singing along from the first verse. When you’ve had 43 No. 1 hits like Alabama, everyone knows your songs.
But Cook, who was scheduled to perform with the band, was nowhere to be found. His mic was on stage, as was his custom green guitar. But not Jeff.
Owen and Gentry and the tight Alabama band plowed through “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band),” “Tennessee River” and “Dixieland Delight” without Cook. Owen gave a shout out to Alabama football and asked them to keep playing the song at football games because they “like the money.”
But during the last refrain of “Dixieland Delight,” Cook walked onto the stage to thunderous applause and joined his band mates of more than 45 years. Cook stayed on stage to play a rendition of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues,” on which he held both lead vocals and guitar duties. Then, Cook was gone. It is uncertain when he will perform with the band again.
Alabama rolled on, playing hit after hit like “Love in The First Degree” and “The Closer You Get” with a new song from “Southern Drawl” placed here and there. After more than four decades in country music, no one does it better than Alabama.