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A Q&A with Cumming fair guest Charlie Daniels
CharlieDaniels CummingFair 14

CUMMING -- It was a little bit country. It was a little bit rock and roll. It was even a little bit gospel and instrumental at points.

It was the Charlie Daniels Band.

Just days before his 80th birthday and induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Charlie Daniels rocked the Cumming Country Fair & Festival on Thursday for what he said was the 13th time. Daniels most recently performed at the fair in 2014 and was the first performer at the first fair in 1995.

Best known for his 1979 hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the closing song on Thursday’s show, Daniels performance mixed his well-known songs with covers of Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, as well as instrumental performances by the band and an acoustic rendition by Daniels of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

For what could have easily just been a nostalgia act going through hit songs, Daniels was friendly and quick-witted with fans in a pre-show meet-and-greet and with stories he told between songs, ranging from jokes to recollections of his life and storied career.

Thursday was also one of his final shows before his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on Sunday. Singer-songwriter Randy Travis and producer Fred Foster will be inducted that night, as well.

Daniels is also approaching his 80th birthday on Oct. 28th and has been wished a happy birthday in a video series from pro sports teams, politicians and other musicians and songwriters, including Dolly Parton and Keith Urban.

He will celebrate about a month later at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for Volunteer Jam, which will feature several of country’s biggest stars.

Ahead of his busy celebratory schedule, Daniels took some time earlier this week to answer questions with the Forsyth County News.

Forsyth County News: Having played the Cumming Fair many times since it opened, what keeps you coming back to the area?

Charlie Daniels: “Well, first of all you good people keep inviting us back, but coming to Georgia is always a pleasant experience for me. I lived in Georgia during some of my early school days, and I always feel very much at home there.”

FCN: Since you’ll be performing just a few days before your induction to the County Music Hall of Fame and your 80th birthday, do these shows have any extra significance?

CD: “As the time approaches for my induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, the more I realize that it is actually happening, it's like a wonderful dream that you want to hold on to and cherish as long as you can. My 80th birthday will elicit an awful lot of memories. I remember celebrating my 50th in Mount Juliet [Tennessee] and my 70th in Hong Kong. Lots of miles. Lots of memories.”

FCN: It looks like some of your next shows are at casinos and larger auditoriums. How is that atmosphere different from a small town fair?

CD: “We don't [discriminate] between venues and crowd sizes. Everybody gets the same show, stadium, show room indoors or out, a stage is a stage and we owe the folks who bought the tickets the best show we can do, and we always deliver it.”

FCN: With your birthday coming up, what has been the outpouring from other bands, musicians and others?

CD: “I have received video birthday greetings from everybody from the Tennessee Titans to Tim McGraw, and many of my friends will be joining me at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on November 30th for the 42nd anniversary of the Volunteer Jam and belated birthday celebration.”

FCN: As a pioneer in both country and Southern rock, what made you want to tackle a different style [western swing and cowboy music] for [recently released album] “Night Hawk?”

CD: “I have a lot of respect for the working cowboy, the ones who actually make their living working cows and wanted to do an album of music saluting their life style.”

FCN: Finally, I saw this year described as one of your most important years. How has it gone for you?

CD: “This year has been amazing. We've had a great touring year, and God just keeps showering us with His blessings.”