bluegrass bass Bluegrass Music

My Charlie Daniels Memory /Bluegrass Bass Part 4.1

Last week, the music world lost a legend when Charlie Daniels passed away from complication of a stroke on July 6. There have been hundreds of blogs and tributes on Charlie, so I hope that you don’t mind if I throw in my thoughts and history.

I can still remember hearing “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” on just about EVERY radio station in Detroit! Country stations, rock stations, and Top-40 stations were all playing it. You could not help but love the song. It was a great storyline, the fiddle playing was plain crazy, and that gravelish voice was one that cut through skin. Charlie was the true connection between country and rock music, more than Hank Jr or Skynyrd. You knew that there was a good time when a Charlie Daniels show was scheduled. I went to one and was drained afterwards. I still remember the baseball caps and T-shirts that were in every truck stop during the 70s: “I party with the Daniels – Jack and Charlie!”

My sort-of connection with Charlie came in the mid 90s. I was sending out some demos of my band at the time to various record companies. Back in the day, you sent out a query letter, included a return postcard that they could reply with a yes or no on your stamp, and if they said yes, you sent off a cassette. I sent off probably a hundred or so, and one of the few that wrote back with interest was Blue Hat Records, Charlie Daniels’ private label. They were interested in hearing us, so I sent off a tape. A few weeks went by, and I got back a letter saying that they were not interested, signed by Charlie. I wish that I could find that letter, I know that I kept it.

Charlie was a true gentleman, and he will be missed. His first love was bluegrass music (his first band as a kid), but his long-time love was the USA. I hope that he knows that there are still people out there playing the fiddle breaks from “Devil.” He will never be forgotten.

I was looking over my bluegrass bass blogs a few days ago, and I forgot to mention what can be used for an amplifier until you secure a proper one.

Since most of us listen to music through our iPhones or computer, we have most likely relegated the old home stereo system to storage in the basement or garage (if it wasn’t thrown out in the garbage). If you still have it, then put it to use again! Check the back of the receiver/amplifier to see if there is an input marked AUX, TAPE IN, or PHONO. If so, you can plug your guitar cord into one of these inputs by using an adapter that converts a 1/4-inch plug to an RCA phono plug. You can probably get one of these from an audio store, I’m sure you can order one off of the internet (I do miss the old Radio Shack stores). Check which channel you plug into, Left or Right, and that should coincide with that channel’s speaker output.

NOTE: Turn the volume all of the way down before plugging in or turning the stereo on. The speakers for home stereos are not designed for musical instruments, and you could blow the speaker. Also, you will notice that the overall volume is quite low unless you are using a PHONO input that has a built-in preamp. You may also need to cut back on the bass tone control so as not to distort the speaker. You can also use the headphone jack to listen without disturbing others.

This setup should suffice for a while until you secure a decent portable amp. BTW, if you have the proper cords and adapters, you may be able to run the bass through one channel and plug your iPod/iPhone or even a CD player through the other channel and play along with songs.

Chew on it and comment.

By Matt Merta/Mitch Matthews

Musician and writer (both song and print) for over 30 years. Primarily interested in roots music (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk). Current contributing writer for Fiddler Magazine, previous work with Metro Times (Detroit), Ann Arbor Paper and Real Detroit Weekly, as well as other various music and military publications. As songwriter, won the 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (Bluegrass Category, "Something About A Train," co-written with Dawn Kenney and David Morris) as well as having work performed on NPR and nominated for numerous Detroit Music Awards.

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