Charlie's soapbox: Different Strokes
Question: On your latest record, "Deuces," there's a couple of tunes written by Bob Dylan, whom you did session work for on records like "Nashville Skyline" and "New Morning." He's somebody who started as a protest singer, but now he steers clear of the finger-pointing songs. On the other hand, you don't shy away from mixing politics and music. Do you have any thoughts on the different approaches?
Answer: One time we did a song called "Three Angels," and we were sitting there listening to the playback, and Dylan said, "I wrote that about three angels they put on a church across the street from where I was living, and they lit them up at Christmastime." When the album came out, some guy wrote this thing about Dylan's insight into humanity with the three angels and all this stuff, and I thought, "Man, he wrote it about Christmas decorations." That's the point about Dylan, with somebody like that who's so unique with words, you don't really know. Of course some of the stuff was protest stuff. He was kind of the father of it, the intellectual side of it anyway. My stuff, I don't look at it as political. I just look at it as being patriotic, as far as "In America" or "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag."
Q: You have some bluegrass players on your latest CD. I've never thought of you as a bluegrass musician, even though you're country music's most famous fiddler. Where does bluegrass figure into what you do?
A: It's the first music I ever played. I was a bluegrasser before anything else. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were on the radio at the time in Raleigh, N.C., and we just idolized them. We couldn't be the Foggy Mountain Boys (the name of Flatt and Scruggs' band), so we were the Misty Mountain Boys. I cut my teeth on bluegrass.
Q: Why did you get out of bluegrass?
A: I got fascinated about the time rock started happening with Elvis and Carl Perkins, where someone who played guitar could now play rock music. The first rock song I ever did was "Tutti Frutti." I'd go to fiddler conventions and sing it with a bluegrass band. I started heading in that direction. I got an electric guitar and here we went.
Q: What did it mean to you to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry?
A: It's absolutely wonderful. They've always been good to us. We could always go to the Opry and play when we were in town. But it's not the same. It creates a different feeling (to be inducted). I've been an admirer of the Opry for so long. It's the first radio show I can remember listening to as a kid. It's kind of hard to articulate, but suffice it to say it's a tremendous honor.