Charlie Daniels’ Son Reveals Arthritis Made Fiddle Playing ‘More Difficult’ in Country Legend’s Later Years
Charlie Daniels was known for his incendiary live shows, and his hot fiddle solos were always a highlight of his performances. But while the country icon continued to perform into his last years, most fans were unaware that behind the scenes, he was struggling with arthritis that made it progressively harder for him to play.
In a new posting to Daniels' old Soapbox column, his son, Charlie Daniels Jr., reveals that it was "more difficult" for his famous father to perform in his later years due to advancing arthritis.
"Don’t get me wrong, he could shred a fiddle bow better than anyone, but it got harder to hold the fiddle in place for him," he writes. "He already didn’t hold it 'correctly,' at least as far as proper fiddle players and violinists do, but stiffness in his hands and fingers started requiring modifications to his fiddles because he was having to adjust his grip even more to compensate."
Daniels' crew began padding the underside of his fiddle with foam to assist him in holding the instrument against his shoulder, and they also began experimenting with different chin rests, a process that was complicated by Daniels' beard.
"I finally took a chin rest and put SteelStik on it, which has the consistency of modeling clay until it dries and I tried to build a higher lip on the chin rest, so he could wedge it under his chin a little better," Daniels' son shares. "It wasn’t pretty to look at, but it seemed to work."
Daniels didn't make a big deal out of his arthritis in public, but he discussed it in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times in 2017, along with some neuropathy that was a result of a stroke he suffered in 2010.
"You have certain limitations. I practice scales on my guitar just about every day to counteract that, to keep my hands limbered up and keep everything that I use playing music limbered up," he explained. "You have to make some adjustments, for sure. There's notes that I have a harder time reaching on the fiddle, getting [my] hand to bend around there to 'em."
"But so far, I can still, for the most part, make people happy going on stage, and that's what it's all about," the Country Music Hall of Famer added. "So I'm going to do that until the Lord calls me home."
Daniels still had dates on the books at the time of his death from a hemorrhagic stroke on July 6, 2020, at the age of 83. The Charlie Daniels Band were slated to hit the road later in 2020 with Marshall Tucker Band for their joint Fire on the Mountain Tour, which had already been delayed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Charlie Daniels Jr. says his father's team were working on some different ideas to help him out at future performances, "including the possibility of 3D printing a brace that might hold onto the back of his shoulder giving him a little more freedom to hold the fiddles the way he needed to."
But since Daniels' death, his son adds, "He doesn’t need any of that anymore. He’s got all of his dexterity back now, and I bet his fiddle playing is better than ever."
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