On Friday night, The Lerner Theatre was set as the location for a history and musical performance by The Charlie Daniels Band.

With the history of The Lerner Theatre, an Elkhart landmark, it seemed only fitting as the place for the iconic country rock legend, The Charlie Daniels Band, to perform.

The show started with Indiana native Matt Mason taking the stage for a short acoustic set. This 2012 winner of CMT’s Next Superstar sang songs from a forthcoming album along with paying tribute to country music legend Merle Haggard, who passed away earlier in the month.

The highlight of Matt’s performance came when he sang his song “Indiana Boy,” his homeboy anthem of being from the state of Indiana. As the song continued, the crowd’s reaction became louder as they approved with every word Matt sang.

Known as a true Southerner with an American West lifestyle, this multi-talented musician played with his band while giving history lessons along the way.

Charlie joined his band on stage with a fiddle in hand as he started his show with “Southern Boy” and then rolling right into his Top 10 hit, “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.”

Switching his fiddle for a guitar, Charlie introduced one of his hit songs raising the crowd to their feet as he spoke of the creatures living in the swamps down South. He mentioned snakes and alligators before telling of “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp.”

Growing up in rural North Carolina, Charlie told the story of not having many telephone land lines in his neighborhood and having to share with multiple homes. When the phone would ring, all the homes would pick up on the call until the right family answered the phone.

As he grew older, he was afraid of modern technology. One day his son pushed him into getting a computer. He fought him on the idea but finally gave in. After finally learning the value of email and a website, he had to stop and ask, “What the Hell is a Twitter?” The crowd laughed when Charlie stated, “It is amazing what you can say with 140 letters.” He added, “You can call me old-fashioned, you can call me a redneck. To that, I say, ‘THANK YOU!'” He followed with the apropos “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks.”

Sitting on a stool with his guitar, Charlie spoke in his deep narrative voice as he told of his youth. On Dec. 7, 1941, at the age of five, he was living with his family in Wilmington, North Carolina when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor leading the US to enter WWII. All his family had was a radio as no television was available.

They saw warships leaving the ports of Wilmington to fight in the war, but had little access to information and feared each day of being invaded. Charlie explained how they then, and still do today, relied on their grace in God and the military to keep us safe and free. With that, he led the audience in “The Pledge of Allegiance” before playing “In America” to a standing ovation by everyone in attendance.

Talking about his talented band and how this is the best group of players he has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with, he introduced his lead guitarist Bruce Brown. As Charlie exits to the back of the stage, Bruce shows off his guitar playing and singing capabilities with “Play Me Some Country Blues.”

Returning to the stage, Charlie talks about leaving home in 1958 to play music. He met many musicians who were very talented along the way and reiterated how he has the best band and wants to give them an opportunity to show off. The band plays “Black Ice” with Charlie playing guitar with his other guitarists before leaving the stage and giving each musician a chance to shine with a solo. The highlight came in the middle of the song with a drum solo that ended with the spotlights flashing with the beat of the double bass drums.

Charlie talked about filling in for a sick guitar player for a Bob Dylan recording session in 1969. After hearing Charlie play on the first day, Bob told the studio that he wanted Charlie to stay and finish the recordings. With nine words spoken by Bob, “I don’t want another guitar player, I want him,” Charlie’s life has never been the same.

With the loss of his friend Merle Haggard, who recently passed, Charlie paid tribute by playing two of Merle’s songs with the crowd approving.

In 1974, Charlie and his band recorded the album, Fire On The Mountain. That album included some of his most requested songs, including his hit “Long Haired Country Boy.”

In 1967, Charlie made his move to Nashville. When he arrived, he immediately met Johnny Cash, who helped him get familiar with the town and introduced him to all the right people. Charlie has always had a lasting friendship and deep admiration for Cash. He paid tribute to the Man in Black by playing “Folsom Prison Blues” while the crowd stood and clapped their hands together to the beat of the song.

Showing his faith in God, he started “How Great Thou Art” with an acoustic guitar solo before being joined be the pianist with a piano hymn. Fans stood with their arms in the air as if in prayer and worship.

Before introducing the rest of the band, he makes mention that former NFL football player Gale Sayers is in attendance to a standing chant from the crowd. He then introduces the band: Charlie Hayward on bass, Pat McDonald on drums, Shannon Wickline on keyboard, and Chris Wormer on guitar.

With Charlie once again walking off stage, Chris takes over at center stage playing the “William Tell Overture” on a double-necked guitar.

The show concluded with Charlie returning to the stage with his fiddle in hand to the crowd’s delight for his signature song, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” As the song ended, Charlie and his band left the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd inside The Lerner Theatre.

Along with the tales of his own and other artists that he shared, the audience left the theater thoroughly entertained. Charlie Daniels has proven that he can still captivate a full house with his stories and thoughts of life, as well as his great musical talent.

The Charlie Daniels Band
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Matt Mason
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The Lerner Theatre
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