‘I hung on every note’: Happenstance led to Charlie Daniels’ collaboration with Bob Dylan

Charlie Daniels’ one of country music’s best-known outlaws, found a kindred spirit in Bob Dylan — a rebel who, Daniels says, refused “to do anything except what he felt like he did best.” They only met, however, because another sessions guitarist couldn’t make it.

Daniels would end up appearing on a trio of Dylan recordings from the turn of the 1970s, including 1969′s Nashville Skyline, 1970′s Self Portrait and and 1970′s New Morning. But he wasn’t featured on his iconic fiddle. Instead, this newly arrived Nashville sideman says he “hung on every word that came out of Bob Dylan’s mouth, and every note he played” — and Daniels played what was needed: bass and guitar.

“I don’t think I ever enjoyed collaborating — well, playing with someone,” Daniels tells In the Lab. “I wasn’t really collaborating, I was just elaborating on his music. It’s like walking into the middle of a history book, because Bob Dylan’s music is legendary. To be part of something that’s going to be left for posterity … you know, he changed the face of pop music in America.”

Daniels’ new album is titled Off the Grid: Doin’ It Dylan, and features 10 unplugged cover songs — including “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “I Shall Be Released” and “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Missing, however, is “Lay Lady Lay,” perhaps the most famous of Dylan songs from Daniels’ era as a sideman. Daniels says he couldn’t find a new approach that differed enough to warrant its inclusion.

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