Fresh off trip to Iraq, Charlie Daniels rides into San Mateo

Charlie Daniels, a man famous for telling the story “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” has a story not many can tell — about being shot at while in a helicopter over Baghdad.

“I just had great peace,” the 69-year-old country music legend said of his experience over Baghdad in 2005, which didn’t deter him from returning in2006. In all, he visited Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

The Charlie Daniels Band is set to play Sunday at the San Mateo County Fair.

“We’re really excited to have Charlie back,” Geoff Hinds, the fair’s manager, said. “He’s always done really well for us.”

From San Mateo, the band heads on to Irving, Texas, and then to Sturgis, Miss., for the Sturgis South Bike Rally.

Daniels called the soldiers in Iraq “the finest bunch of kids in the world.” Twenty-one-year-old Army Spc. Christopher Rose of San Francisco and 19-year-old Pfc. Angelo Zawaydeh of San Bruno were killed in Iraq this past year.

“They’re volunteers. They’re just great kids,” Daniels said. “They have such a sense of beauty, such a sense of what they’re there for.”

Patriotism and the yeoman attitude often attributed to the South is pervasive in Daniels’ songs, the classics of which audience members are likely to hear at the fair.

Daniels said one his pet peeves was going to see a band play a medley of its hits and then try and sell a new album by playing its new songs.

“I want ’em to dance to the songs that brought ’em,” he said.

That includes “The South’s Gonna Do It (Again),” “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag” and “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.”

Daniels is no stranger to the Bay Area, having come through the region in the 1970s, producing such acts as The Youngbloods and Jerry Corbit.

He described the Bay Area as much like Louisiana because it “feels like a different country” out here.

dsmith@examiner.com

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