One on one with Charlie Daniels on TETWP Night

I had the special treat of spending a few minutes bending the ear of country music legend Charlie Daniels before Round 5 Monday on Tough Enough To Wear Pink Night, and I found him to be a pleasure. Daniels performed the opening act at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo just as he’s done for the better part of 30 years, and I caught up with him in the security room at the Thomas & Mack Center.

He couldn’t have been more gracious, and he was an engaging and friendly interview subject. Naturally, we talked rodeo.

Daniels, who is performing at the Golden Nugget this week, said he is always thrilled to perform at the Wrangler NFR.

“It’s like a dream come true for me,” said Daniels, who was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. “There was a time where I couldn’t imagine even coming to the NFR, much less being a part of it. It’s a very big honor to me.”

Charlie Daniels has been a mainstay at the Wrangler NFR since it moved to Las Vegas in 1985, and he was the opening performer Monday night.  (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Greg Westfall)

Charlie Daniels has been a mainstay at the Wrangler NFR since it moved to Las Vegas in 1985, and he was the opening performer Monday night. (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Greg Westfall)

The 76-year-old always enjoys talking to the professional cowboys, and Daniels told saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss he would teach him how to play the fiddle if DeMoss would teach him how to ride broncs. Daniels is in awe of what the contestants do in the arena.

“Some of the stuff these guys do looks impossible,” said the North Carolina native who now lives in Tennessee. “I just don’t see how they do it. They’re some of the toughest guys around.”

Charlie Daniels lended his fiddle to Wrangler NFR saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss before performing at the Thomas & Mack Center.  (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Tom Donoghue)

Charlie Daniels lended his fiddle to Wrangler NFR saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss before performing at the Thomas & Mack Center. (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Tom Donoghue)

Daniels began team roping for fun after he bought some land and horses in Tennessee, although he said a rotator cuff problem has sidelined his Western hobby. He enjoys watching the ropers display their skill in the tight and tough Thomas & Mack Center arena.

“Watching those guys and how they can get (a steer) turned and heeled so quick, and to watch the calf ropers, they’re amazing,” Daniels said. “It’s a neat thing to watch.”

The talented musician and songwriter – who once co-wrote a song recorded by Elvis Presley and played electric base on a trio of Bob Dylan records – has seen the city of Las Vegas embrace the Wrangler NFR and the contestants a great deal through the years.

“I think it’s great,” Daniels said. “I’m not here 12 months out of the year, but from what I understand, this is one of the biggest crowds they have in town during the NFR. I know they’ve increased the purse a great deal since (the rodeo) moved out here, and it’s been great for the cowboys to be here in Las Vegas.

“I think it’s a very good marriage.”

It’s not every day you get to sit down with a country music legend and shoot the breeze, and talking to Charlie made my day. He’s a classy guy who loves rodeo, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who couldn’t imagine the Wrangler NFR without him.

PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman signed a check for $14.5 million, representing the amount raised by the rodeo industry for the Tough Enough To Wear Pink program, headed by Terry Wheatley, center.  (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Greg Westfall)

PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman signed a check for $14.5 million, representing the amount raised by the rodeo industry for the Tough Enough To Wear Pink program, headed by Terry Wheatley, center. (PRCA ProRodeo photo by Greg Westfall)

Daniels was one of thousands of people at the arena wearing pink in honor of TETWP Night, and program founder and breast cancer survivor Terry Wheatley presented a $14.5 million check signed by PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman in the arena. The total represented the amount of money raised by the program – which provides funds to charities that fight breast cancer – through the PRCA and its constituents since the program began in 2004. I think Charlie would agree that rodeo people look good in pink.

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