Performer: The Charlie Daniels Band
Songwriter: Charlie Daniels
Original Release: Honey in the Rock
Definitive Version: Fire on the Mountain, 1974.
Yes, I have a spot on my list for another song by a right-wing xenophobe. Again, so what? What does Charlie Daniels’ politics have to do with this hard blues jam? Right, the same amount that I spent to put this song on my computer—nothing. (Dad has Fire on the Mountain, which I taped many moons ago.)
I was into Charlie Daniels for a very brief window of time in the early Eighties, like a lot of people. Back then, he, like a lot of folks these days, wasn’t as conservative as he is now, but his politics, whatever they were, didn’t matter to me. Back then, what was more important to me was having good music on my tape deck as I drove to and from Wabash. I recorded an MTV show of the CDB and played it a lot during my freshman year.
Fortunately, I had something to play it on. For my 17th birthday, Dad bought me a car stereo for the Fart that he installed. The key component was a tape deck, so I no longer was dependent on radio for my entertainment. That proved fortuitous when I went to college, because between Dayton and Indianapolis, there wasn’t much music radio that could be picked up in my car.
The first year, my route was the same: I’d drive I-70 west to Indy, cut north on I-465 on the west side of town to I-74 and take that all the way to Crawfordsville, coming into town south on U.S. 231. Sometime in the next year—it might even have been my sophomore year—I found a new route.
Instead of driving all the way through Indy to 74, I cut north on I-465 east of the city and took that around the top. Then, presaging a route I’d take frequently two decades later, I’d get on I-65 and take that to U.S. 32 in Lebanon. From there, I’d take the windy two-lane highway into Crawfordsville, coming in from the East.
This route had two advantages. The first was it would take me right past the Marsh, which was the closest grocery store to campus. I could stop and pick up milk or cereal or whatever I needed without having to go out of my way.
The second was that it shaved a half-hour off what typically was a four-hour drive. When I realized that that meant an extra half-hour of make-out time with Beth, it’s obvious why this new route to Wabash became permanent.
Typically there was less traffic—and thus a quicker trip—by taking the outerbelt, but sometimes, if I traveled at night, I’d take 65 all the way into downtown Indy to meet up with 70 there. It’s on this part of the commute—the link between 65 and 70—that I have a specific memory of hearing this song at night as I drove home. I would be in Beth’s arms soon. Blue had been my color, but things were looking up.