COMMERCE— Jerry Coach was fortunate to call the late Charlie Daniels a friend.
Daniels, who hit gold with his single “Devil Went Down to Georgia” as well as a number of other country music anthems, died earlier this month at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, following a stroke. He was 83.
Daniels was a sponsor of Coach’s Santa Claus Program, which marked its 40th anniversary in 2019 and provides toys to children in the area who might not receive presents for Christmas.
“He would send me a signed fiddle each year to auction for money to buy toys,” Coach said. “Someone asked me if I had three words to describe my friend. I told him it was easy: Christian, patriotic and caring.”
Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan's “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.
Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.
“Anytime I was asked for a auction item for someone in our area, Charlie was my first call,” Coach said. “For instance, there was a Galena (Kansas) kid killed in a automobile accident and they was doing a fundraiser for a scholarship fund in his honor and CD donated a signed fiddle and signed items. He was so about giving and helping.”
Daniels had suffered what was described as a mild stroke in January 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013, but continued to perform.
“I will always remember one of CD quotes: ‘only two things protect America. The grace of almighty God and the United States military.’ I will never forget this. CD loved our military traveling to the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq and other places to entertain our troops.”
Coach remembered Daniels — a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame — always calling him his “partner,” be it backstage at the Grand Ole Opry or at a show on the road.
“He was always ‘what can I do to help you help though kids in your area?’” Coach said. “I would say ‘Charlie, the fiddle was enough.’ When I would return home, I always had another package from him.”
Coach had planned on attending Daniels’ 45th annual Volunteer Jam concert in Nashville, Tennessee, but it was cancelled because of COVID-19.
The event has been moved back to 2021 and will be a tribute to his 60 years in music.
“I don’t think he ever knew my name,” Coach said. “He would never leave a visit without saying ‘partner’ can I send more items to help those country kid up there?’
“He will be missed,” Coach said.
— The Associated Press also contributed information to this report.