Rick Diamond, Getty Images
"I'm very, very happy, because you know how I feel about the Armed Forces and service people," Charlie tells The Boot, "so it's a good thing."
The Buffets, Inc. chain includes 350 restaurants in 35 states operating as Old Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, Ryan's and Fire Mountain. Charlie is a big fan of their food. "When you go out and have a meal, they've got more food out there than you can shake a stick at. I was just out at Ryan's this morning," he says. "My gosh they could feed the Armed Services YMCA out there."
After enjoying a great meal, Charlie is hoping diners will pick up his new Christmas CD to support the troops and their families. He says when folks see it at the cash register they are likely to think "it's Santa Claus without his suit on," he says with a laugh.
Charlie's CD will be available for $8.99 and will include a blend of Christmas classics and originals. "It's got a lot of secular songs. It's got Christian songs. It's got kids songs," Charlie says. "It's got fun songs. It's got serious songs, all within the bounds of 13 tunes. And it's got a thing called 'Carolina Christmas Carol,' which is a short story that I wrote a lot of years ago. It's become a part of our Christmas Eve tradition. My son Charlie asked me to read it on Christmas Eve night, which I do. We have people come over to our house on Christmas. It's a special time of year. I read this and read St. Luke's version of the Christmas Story. It's been a part of Christmas at my house for a long time."
Though "Carolina Christmas Carol" is a fictitious story Charlie wrote years ago, it reflects the veteran artist's North Carolina roots. "It's kind of semi-autobiographical," Charlie says. "A lot is about the time that I grew up, about the place that I grew up, about the circumstances that I grew up in, but the story is fictitious ... The story is about how Christmas used to be a long time ago, when I was a kid growing up."
The music icon's "Hallelujah It's Christmas Time Again" CD marks the second time the Greer, SC-based restaurant chain has partnered with a country act. Earlier this year, Buffets, Inc. sold Montgomery Gentry's "Rebels on the Run" CD with proceeds benefiting the Armed Services YMCA. Charlie sees such partnerships as a win-win situation for all involved. "The record business has changed a lot, especially since my days. I go back to the old vinyl. I go back to the 78's actually," he says with a smile. "It's changed a lot and we've got to deal with the reality that we market records where we can. I think this is something that's going to happen more and more frequently. . . It's a great thing for the artist. It's a great way to market records. It's a great way for the companies because it's a little added something that they have there."
But most of all, Charlie sees it as a great way to support our troops and their families. "Anything that goes to help the service people is A No. 1 in my book because I'm a life long supporter," Charlie says. "I mean that from my heart of hearts. I'm a life long supporter of the military. We could never, ever do enough for the military ... I want to thank Ryan's and Hometown Buffet [for] doing this. They are giving their profits to see that there's a better life for our service people and our kids."