Making Wayne County Music History
By Anita Miller
Raised in Collinwood, Tennessee, Ben Daniel learned to sing at the Shawnettee Church. His father, Arlie, owns a tire shop in Collinwood and plays guitar. His mother, Betty Brison Daniel, whose family has a rich musical heritage, played piano with The Singing Kinsmen and is now organist for Shawnettee Church. “My musical roots were formed at home and in the Shawnettee Church,” Ben fondly remembers. Shawnettee Church is famous for its long history of teaching southern gospel music and for developing notable groups such as The Smith Brothers, The Dixon Brothers Quartet, The Shawnettee Gospel Singers, The Singing Kinsmen, and The Caltons.
At the age of 13, Ben took guitar lessons from Dennis McAvey, who played with country music star Jacky Ward. After that, Ben played with Brent Mahr, steel guitarist, and Brent Dixon, drummer, who both went on to play with The Holt Band. Ben picked up banjo and harmonica as well. “I attended the singing schools at Shawnettee Church, sang in The Singing Kinsmen, and started a band there around the age of 15,” Ben said. With Daryl and Lisa Calton, Ben formed Risen, which performed for a couple years. He worked at Pigeon Forge in 1994 and then played with Karen Peck and New River for a while.
At that point, he chose to pursue a career in country music. “I farmed while I did the usual things everyone does to break into the music business,” Ben commented. He played Nashville clubs, songwriters’ nights, and still plays dates at the Blue Bird, which is featured in the television series “Nashville.” “When I started playing there years ago,” he remarked, “it wasn’t like it is now, with a long line of people waiting to get in.”
He recalls playing in the opening act for a George Jones performance. Ben aimed for a singing career, but even though he has a great voice, his songwriting caught more attention. Twelve years ago, he began writing music for country singers. He now writes for a publishing house and travels to Nashville three or four times a week for songwriting sessions.
In 2001, his first recording contract was with Red Bird Music. Then, in 2005, he went to work forJeff Carleton. Ben’s first cut was for Joe Nichols. In 2007, Ben went to Song Garden with Byron Galimor (who produces for Tim McGraw and others) and had a song in the movie “Country Strong,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow. At Song Garden, Ben had a single released, “It Ain’t Got To Be Love,” sung by Brett Eldridge.
In 2010, he moved to Red Vinyl, where he now writes. At Red Vinyl, he’s had cuts by Jake Owen, Craig Morgan, Joanna Smith and Tyler Farr. He says, “I do a little producing and artistic development. I’m presently developing Jacob Powell and have recently completed a video with the up and coming performer.”
The Ben Daniel Experiment has a CD out, titled “Ordinary SOB.” He plays solo and also with Matt Roy throughout the Muscle Shoals area. The band gives knockout performances of country music and sings some of Ben’s songs.
Ben now lives in Waynesboro with his wife, Wendy Beavis Daniel and their two children, Kaylee, 11, and Presley, 5. Ben’s favorite musical memory – “I wrote a song for my mom’s mom on her birthday.”
Anita Miller is an Ambassador with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce researching the musical history of Wayne County.