Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam

“Ain’t it great to be alive and be in Tennessee!” With those words, Charlie Daniels kicked off the first Volunteer Jam I ever saw. He also kicked off every Vol Jam with those words. My first Jam (I think) was Vol Jam iX back around 1980 or so. I was talking to a co-worker a few days ago about the Volunteer Jams and it brought back great memories. For those of you from the Nashville area who are over 40 years old, you know about the Volunteer Jams. Read on for a walk down memory lane. If you haven’t a clue, read on about some great musical events that occurred several years back.

Charlie Daniels started the Volunteer Jams back in 1974. As the name suggests, it was basically a jam session where he invited all of his musical friends to stop by and play. The venue changed through the years from the War Memorial Auditorium to the Municipal Auditorium, to Starwood Amphitheater. The early Jams, including the first I attended, were truly spontaneous. Charlie didn’t know who was showing up until they were backstage. Each act would come out and play anywhere from two to five songs. Even lead singers without their bands would play with whoever was backstage. Charlie would typically open up the Jam with a set of his own. I noticed through the years that the length of his set depended upon how deep the lineup was backstage – the more people backstage, the shorter the set. It was fun between acts to try & guess who would be showing up next. Once my friend Joe & I saw a flute being brought out with the electric guitars. We immediately thought it might be Jethro Tull. Wrongo – Marshall Tucker Band. The number of acts was typically in the low teens, so the show typically ended around 2:00 a.m. The show would close with all acts (who were still around) coming back on stage to play a couple of songs together. Throughout the night, Charlie would introduce each act and come out and play with them.

The acts spanned all aspects of music and locale. There were gospel acts (Jordanaires), country (Roy Acuff), and rock (Ted Nugent). Some of the acts I have seen are: Billy Joel , Roy Acuff , Leon Russell , The Jordanaires , Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), The Marshall Tucker Band , Molly Hatchet , Crystal Gayle , George Thorogood , Bill Monroe , Papa John Creech (90 year old fiddle player), The Outlaws, Delbert McClinton , Quarterflash, and Ted Nugent (picked up Charlie).

The latter Jams were broadcast on a radio network so they weren’t as spontaneous. However, all the Jams were great and allowed me to see a wide range of acts that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see by themselves. To answer Charlie’s question – Yes, it is good to be alive and to be in Tennessee.

Zach, a Tennessee Squire


  1. Kim and I went in '85 or '86. Left Knoxville at 7 a.m. on Saturday and got back at 7 a.m. on Sunday. I recall the Judds and the Allman Brothers. We met a couple of guys who were on a weekend pass from the military, stationed in Mississippi I believe. They were still at the show past the time they were scheduled to report back. Probably still in Leavenworth.

  2. I was there when James Brown performed a 45 minute set.

    I also witnessed the first Lynryd Skynyrd reunion show. On the same show was Stevie Ray Vaughn. They both performed about a 30 to 40 minute set.

    I miss those shows!

    Thanks for the wonderful post!
    Mike Arnold