For the past couple of decades, Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels has been working on his memoir, Never Look at the Empty Seats.
But there was a problem: He didn’t know how to finish it.
“I could not find a place to close it, a place to finish it, because my career kept going on and I was doing new things,” he said. “When I found out I was going to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, I thought it was a great place to end it. So I did. I got my induction, and the next morning, I sat down and wrote the ending, about my induction and what I had said and just kind of tied it all together.”
“(The book) is basically just who I am, what I am, what I’ve been doing the last 80 years,” he said. “It goes through a lot of my attitudes, my ups and my downs, my successes and failures and the greatest things that have ever happened to me in my life, especially up to the end. The situations I’ve been in – kind of where I come from, why I am who I am, how I was raised – just the whole nine yards of Charlie Daniels from earliest remembrances up through last year when I finally finished the book.”
Writing the book wasn’t without its challenges, he said.
“The hardest chapter I had to write was the chapter on my faith. It was probably the hardest not because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but I wanted to be careful to say it in a way that people would understand because I had a lot of confusion about it back when I was younger ... The Christian faith is a big river with a lot of tributaries, and trying to find the one you swim best in is what I was doing.”
As is probably pretty inevitable when you sit down to write the story of your life, the idea of the legacy you’ll eventually leave behind comes to mind.
“I don’t think a person deserves to be remembered for anything more or less than the way they were. We tend to forgive people an awful lot after they pass away,” Daniels said. “So whatever people perceive me to be: Some people will tell you I’m a fiddle player; some people will tell you I’m an entertainer; some people will tell you I’m a guitar player; some people will tell you I’m a songwriter or an author. I’ve had a multifaceted career – so I could be remembered in different ways by different people. But if I had to boil it down to one word as far as my career was concerned, I would like to be remembered (as) an entertainer.”
And the release of Daniels’ memoir does not spell retirement. With another book and a new album in the works on top of still performing about 100 shows a year, Daniels isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“I’m constantly staying busy – I like that,” he said.