Daniels still excites crowds even covering Dylan

December 30, 2014 3:00 AM


The 'redneck' in Charlie Daniels never sounded better. Last month, I interviewed Charlie Daniels, best known for his No. 1 country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and heard several songs from his new cd, “Off the Grid – Doin’ It Dylan,” a tribute piece in which the Charlie Daniels Band puts a southern twist on a collection of Bob Dylan’s most classic songs.

This made me feel compelled to check out his show at The Orleans theatre to witness for myself how this country and southern rock legend skilled on guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, manages to stay so relevant at 78 years of age.

It was closing night of National Finals Rodeo week. Backstage, prior to the show, we were chatting it up and I noticed even his deep speaking voice was resonating with every word. He came across as American as apple pie, and was quite humble and personable both on and off stage.

I had no idea what to expect from Charlie’s show but knew after 50 plus years of creating his own new definitions of music that scored hits on rock, country, pop and Christian charts alike, and winning almost every music award along the way, I would be in for a real treat…and I was!

From the moment Daniels hit the stage, he displayed personality using some theatrics in jovial interaction with his fellow band members. He really played to his audience when singing a song about rednecks, which clearly won the room over early on.

Every type of music was covered from classic Christmas songs to blues and everything in between with Charlie’s signature southern sound and spin in the music’s interpretation. He even played a Johnny Cash tune to pay tribute to the star that was so kind to him in Nashville when trying to break into the very competitive music business.

Charlie also showed much appreciation of his fellow band members throughout the show. The introduction of an instrumental entitled “Black Ice,” an intricate, jamming concert-piece designed to showcase the skills of his musicians with solos from each band member, including an 8 minute solo from drummer Pat McDonald, received a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

I found it interesting that the two Dylan songs Charlie chose to play were coincidently the same two I picked to showcase samples of during my interview with him. “Tangled Up In Blue,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody,” I absolutely loved!

When interviewing Daniels, I noticed we had the exact same taste in artists from Gregg Allman to B.B. King. He confessed, “I would love to have the opportunity to record with B.B. Bob Dylan was the original before the Beatles, and before everyone else.”

Charlie told the story of how he was called to record with Dylan as a one-time fill in because the guitarist that was hired for the series of recording sessions could not make the very first one. However, after the session was over, Bob insisted Daniels stay on and finish the project with him because he was the perfect person for the job.

Of course the show closed with the much awaited “Devil Went Down in Georgia,” which had the audience on its feet.

What a perfect way to end National Finals Rodeo week! Charlie will be touring the country starting in January, and has several dates in casinos nationally. I highly recommend his show.

Jay Johnson

The other artist featured with Daniels on Las Vegas Backstage Talk was the talented ventriloquist Jay Johnson, mostly remembered for his role as the schizophrenic ventriloquist “Chuck and Bob” on the classic ABC television comedy “Soap.”

Jay was on my radio show promoting the new DVD release of his Tony Award-winning Broadway show “The Two and Only,” which he wrote and performed. Johnson made his Broadway debut at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Four months before the Broadway opening “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” played the Colony Theatre where it won the Los Angeles Ovation award for Best Solo Show. The show was originally produced Off-Broadway the previous season at Atlantic Theatre where it earned rave reviews and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination.

Jay has written and performed in television specials for NBC, CBS, HBO and made hundreds of appearances on variety specials and talk shows like “The Tonight Show” (with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson) and “The David Letterman Show.” Featured in more than 30 national commercials, his acting credits include appearances on “CSI,” “That 70’s Show,” “Dave’s World,, “Night Court,” “Broken Badges” and many others.

I had the pleasure of working with Jay years ago when we were performing on Senor Wences’ 100th Birthday Tour at The Improv in LA with Paul Winchell, Milton Berle, John Byner, Charles Fleisher, and many more.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with Jay since that night’s performance. It was gratifying to hear his rendition of that very special evening’s dinner with those two ventriloquist legends as it matched my exact recollection of events.

With rodeo week, Christmas, and soon New Year’s behind us the schedule for headline entertainment in Las Vegas for 2015 is slowly being put together and released.

January picks

Joe Rogan, Mirage, Jan. 1-2, 30- 31; Elton John, Caesars Palace, Jan. 16-24; Rob Schneider, South Point, Jan. 16-17; Styx, Palms, Jan. 18; Santana, Mandalay Bay, Jan. 21-31.

Daniel Tosh, Mirage, Jan. 23-24; Tommy Roe, South Point, Jan. 23-25; Rod Stewart, Caesars Palace, Jan. 27-Feb. 15; Bobby Slayton and Kevin Pollock, South Point, Jan. 29-31.

Burt Bacharach, Smith Center, Jan. 30; Jackie Evancho, Smith Center, Jan. 31; Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Mandalay Bay, Jan. 31; Tim Allen, Mirage, Jan. 31.

Visit Michele's webiste at LasVegasBackStageTalk.comContact Michele at MicheleLaFong@GamingToday.com.

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