The country music legend died on Monday at age 83 of a hemorrhagic stroke. The Grammy-winning and wildly acclaimed Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member was known to be devoted to his faith, the U.S. military and lifting up other musicians, all of which were qualities that were mentioned by people who spoke at the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Friday.
Among the celebrities to speak about the late music icon, known best for his monster 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” were Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Trace Adkins and Gretchen Wilson. In addition to the many people in attendance at the church, thousands watched the live stream of the memorial on social media.
Among the first to eulogize Daniels was Navy SEAL and motivational speaker David Rutherford, who spoke about the singer’s immense love and support of the U.S. military.
“I’m centered in my faith and believe that Charlie’s words that he would always share with us,” he began. “If you’re good to each other, if you care for each other, if you serve each other above yourself, that’s what America is. And that man he was America.”
Rutherford then addressed the military members that were in the room or watching online on Daniels’ behalf.
“To all of you that are still putting the uniform on every day, I want to share with you what this man taught me. He said, ‘You don’t have to change the world through the barrel of a gun, although we sign up for that. You change the world with what’s in your heart. You change the world, one individual at a time, by sharing your love for each other and your love for this country. That’s how you change the world.' So gentlemen, don’t ever forget that," he said.
With that, Daniels’ good friend and fellow musician Adkins took the stage to share a lighthearted story about a time the late star was encouraging to him.
He explained that he once performed “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” with Daniels sitting in the front row at his induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He agreed to do it but realized just before he went on stage how nervous he was to sing the iconic song in front of its original singer. However, he did it.
“After I was done, Charlie looked at me and smiled and nodded his head and had a look on his face as if to say, ‘You’re welcome,’” Adkins said to laughs from the audience. “And I realized at that moment that he had given me an invaluable gift and it’s a gift I’d like to share today.”
Adkins said that whenever he has difficulty in his life, he simply thinks: “At least I’m not doing ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ with Charlie sitting in the front row… you can use that,” he said to more laughs and applause.
With that, he sang “Arlington,” one of Daniels’ favorite songs.
Daniels’ longtime roadie, Roger Campbell, took the stage to thank him for the years of work and friendship. He noted that Daniels was the only person in the business that would ever trust a tone-deaf man like him to be his guitar tuner.
Country music singer Vince Gill took the stage next to sing “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and the national anthem. He also commended Campbell on his service, kindness and friendship, noting those as qualities that stick out among all the people Daniels held dear. He also thanked Daniels for being the first to encourage him to perform solo after years of only ever being a member of a band.
Travis Tritt took the stage next to perform “Amazing Grace” after commending the late music legend for his faith.
“Charlie loved Jesus,” he said. “And he was never, to my knowledge, he was never judgemental or preachy about his beliefs. If you believed differently than he did, that was OK. But he wasn’t ashamed to tell you at any given time how much he loved the lord. And I always respected him so much for that. And I have no doubt, because I know how much Charlie loved God, I have no doubt that if there’s any person that I’ve ever met that heard the words ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’ it was Charlie Daniels this past Monday.”
Gretchen Wilson closed out the memorial service’s performances by also commending Daniels on his faith.
“He’s been like a father to me,” she said. “He was there to hand me my diploma when I received my GED. He spoke at my graduation ceremony. He referred me to my financial advisers. He referred me to my medical team… And he referred me to Jesus on many occasions, and I thank him so much for that.”
With that, she sang “I’ll Fly Away.”
Among the others to share kind words about Daniels prior to his private burial at Mt. Juliet Memorial Gardens in Tennessee included his longtime manager David Corlew, SiriusXM’s Storme Warren and Pastor Allen Jackson.