Even before he scored a major national hit, Daniels was something of an icon among country rockers, mainly thanks to his headlining appearances at the annual, star-studded Volunteer Jam concerts, launched in Nashville in 1974; the event ran through 1996 and was officially revived in 2015.
He is best remembered for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” his folk tale, set in a talking blues style, about a fiddling contest with Old Nick. The single climbed to No. 1 on the country chart and crossed over to No. 3 on the pop side in 1979, shifting 1 million copies.
The song, which received wide exposure on the multi-platinum soundtrack of the 1980 feature “Urban Cowboy,” captured a Grammy Award for best country vocal performance. It thrust Daniels’ album “Million Mile Reflections” to No. 5 on the pop album chart.
In the aftermath of “Devil,” Daniels scored further pop hits with the patriotic “In America” (No. 11, 1980) and a musing look back at the Vietnam War, “Still in Saigon” (No. 22, 1982). Those singles lofted his albums “Full Moon’ (1980) and “Windows” (1982) to No. 5 and No. 7 on the country albums charts, with the former collection reaching No. 11 on the pop side. His last top-20 country single, “Simple Man,” peaked at No. 12 in 1989.
In later years, Daniels continued to play for the faithful, but often was a lightning rod for controversy as he became an unabashed mouthpiece for right-wing political views. His later singles – “America I Believe in You,” “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” “My Beautiful America,” “The Pledge of Allegiance” – reflected an increasing tendency to wave the flag.