A sold-out crowd of concert-goers went wild Wednesday night at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the legendary Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam, presented by Copperweld, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena as seven-time GRAMMY-nominee country star Eric Church, iconic Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Blackberry Smoke made bombshell, unannounced appearances to honor U.S. military members and veterans.
Making waves in the music world in recent years with their blend of Southern Rock and country, Blackberry Smoke was the first surprise of the night. In the 9:00 hour, country mega-star, Eric Church, busted out on the stage in the midst of Daniels’ crowd-pleasing performance of “In America,” joining Daniels for an electrifying duet. Though both Daniels and Church hail from the state of North Carolina, the two had never shared the stage before – giving the crowd the chance to witness a magnetic inaugural moment.
Ensuring the Jam stayed enthralling to the very end, Lynyrd Skynyrd made their rip-roaring entrance at 11:30 p.m. CT and closed out the final hour of the historically boundless extravaganza with their iconic hits like “Simple Man,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird,” “Gimme Three Steps,”and more.
Jamey Johnson also showed up late in the event, surprising concert-goers, yet again.
The four surprise guests joined billed acts: The Charlie Daniels Band, Ted Nugent, Trace Adkins, Alabama, Terri Clark, Billy Ray Cyrus, Colt Ford, The Grascals, Lee Greenwood, The Kentucky Headhunters, Tracy Lawrence, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ryan Weaver, Wynonna, Craig Morgan, Lee Roy Parnell, Billy Dean, Michael W. Smith, Travis Tritt, Phil Vassar, Montgomery Gentry and Blackberry Smoke, for a jam-packed line-up to remember.
Former Blackhawk pilot, U.S. veteran and rising country star, Ryan Weaver, evoked arguably the most emotional applause of the night with a performance and moving video tribute to his brother and brother-in-law, both lost in combat in the War on Iraq.
A benefit for U.S. Military veterans and their families, the 40th Anniversary Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam raised hundreds of thousands in proceeds for the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, The Journey Home Project. It was co-founded by Daniels and his manager David Corlew, seeks to connect donors with veterans’ organizations that do the most good in meeting the health care, education and career needs of military servicemen and women and their families. Additional concert proceeds will benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation.
The Volunteer Jam’s title sponsor, Henry Repeating Arms, donated a $200,000 check on-stage to The Journey Home Project. Anthony Imperato, President of Henry Repeating Arms, said, “Although we can never repay them [U.S. Military servicemen and women] what they have done for us, Henry’s sponsorship of the Volunteer Jam and donation to The Journey Home Project is a small token of our gratitude.”
Since 1974, Daniels has commissioned his musical friends and peers to come together on a “volunteer” basis to hang out, “jam” together, and entertain crowds in an unconventional, laid-back fashion unknown to any other concert event — all while dedicating concert proceeds to worthy causes.
Having founded the “Volunteer Jam” concept in 1974 as a “homecoming,” event for music peers to gather in Nashville after celebrating their first hometown sellout concert, Daniels and The Charlie Daniels Band have grown the concept from its early days at the War Memorial Auditorium to the Starwood Amphitheater, to its first year at Music City’s Bridgestone Arena– it’s largest setting to-date.