“We had no idea this was coming,” says Daniels Jr. “After the initial shock, we had to start trying to sort through it all.”
That means reviewing Daniels’ holdings, including royalties, recordings, instruments and equipment, for tax evaluation. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” says David Corlew, who worked with Daniels since 1973, managed him since 1989 and had run Blue Hat Records with him since 1997. “It took us 50 years to build what Charlie represented, so we’re not going to unravel it anytime soon.”
Daniels is best known for his ferocious fiddle playing and Southern rock barnburners like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” (his lone No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart), “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” and “Long Haired Country Boy,” but also was a star musician who played on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and toured with Leonard Cohen. He was an unapologetic iconoclast who performed at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration but later leaned far right politically.
On July 16, Blue Hat will release Duets, Daniels’ first posthumous collection (initially available as a Walmart exclusive), which combines the 2007 album Deuces — which included collaborations with Dolly Parton, Darius Rucker and Brad Paisley — with previously released duets, including one with Garth Brooks. “Charlie always liked dedications on every album,” says Corlew, “and we decided we would dedicate this one to the greatest duo of all — him and Hazel.”
That’s only the beginning of Daniels’ vault, which Corlew estimates contains at least 40 master recordings, including multiple previously unreleased tracks, that Daniels owned, as well as decades’ worth of Volunteer Jams, the now-legendary concerts Daniels hosted from 1974 to 1996 at various venues around Nashville. Those shows featured a wide range of artists, from Billy Joel and James Brown to Don Henley and John Prine.
Daniels Jr. is also working with Sony to release or reissue recordings from Daniels’ 1975-91 stint on Epic, especially Honky Tonk Avenue, an unreleased concept album Daniels recorded in 1984, when he was moved from Epic in New York to the company’s Nashville division. “The powers that be in Nashville didn’t think it was commercial country enough,” says Daniels Jr.