Wednesday November 08, 2017

Charlie Daniels says Las Vegas shooting was a 'kick in the head' to country music

(Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

Listen 18:16

If you haven't been following what's happening in the lead-up to the Country Music Awards this year, here's a bit of a primer: It's the biggest night in American country music, and this year organizers caused a real controversy by telling journalists covering the red carpet to keep their questions to music. In other words: don't ask country music stars about politics — especially gun control.

It's been just over a month since the mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas and now another at a church in Texas just this past weekend, so the idea of sticking to questions about music did not go over well. Music journalists were outraged and so were some of country music's biggest stars, such as Maren Morris and Brad Paisley, who spoke out against the idea. Eventually the Country Music Association backed down, and with the awards happening tonight, whatever happens on the red carpet will probably get a little complicated.

Charlie Daniels started his career as a Nashville session musician, getting his big break playing on Bob Dylan's album Nashville Skyline. In the 1970s he had a string of hits of his own including "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He made music that mixed southern rock and country, and in that way he helped set the template for a lot of the artists you'll hear at the CMA awards tonight. He's also a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association.

Daniels is 81 years old now and he's written a new memoir called Never Look at the Empty Seats. We talked to Daniels about his career in music, but also about his politics. This conversation happened after the Las Vegas shooting but before the one that happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The conversation ended up going to some uncomfortable places. Have a listen.

— Produced by Ben Jamieson