For sure, every country music fan knows Charlie Daniels and his band’s 1979 song very well, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” They know the song, how it’s played, its lyrics and basically, the singer. However, the story behind and how it all came about is what every fan is missing out. Here, the singer, Charlie Daniels himself reveals exactly how the song came to be.
But before we start talking about its story and then so, let us first dissect the song and have a review:
The song starts off with the devil himself, Satan, who pays a visit to Georgia. While in the state, he challenges a boy named Johnny to a fiddle duel. He then gives Johnny the following condition:
“If Johnny can play the fiddle better than the devil, he gets a golden fiddle. But, if he loses, the devil gets his soul.“
Johnny agrees with the devil and proceeds to do the battle. Satan started and channeled a menacing performance, complete with histrionics like fire and demon backup singers. On the other hand, Johnny came in next. He played exquisitely as if he were possessed. Inspired by his roots in the Deep South, he nailed and killed the performance, defeating the devil. Eventually, Johnny won the golden fiddle and Satan concedes defeat.
The Story and How ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’
In one of his interviews, Charlie Daniels told that the idea of coming up with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” came from a poem. It was a poem he read in high school called The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet. Daniels said:
“We had gone in and rehearsed, written, and recorded the music for our Million Mile Reflections album, and all of a sudden we said, ‘We don’t have a fiddle song.’ I don’t know why we didn’t discover that, but we went out and we took a couple of days’ break from the recording studio, went into a rehearsal studio and I just had this idea: ‘The Devil went down to Georgia.'”
He eventually added:
The idea may have come from an old poem that Stephen Vincent Benet wrote many, many years ago. He didn’t use that line, but I just started, and the band started playing, and [the] first thing you know we had it down.”
Furthermore, Daniels also reiterated that sometimes, it really takes a long time to write a song:
“This particular song just started coming once I got the story, and knew where I was going with it. I just kind of followed it.”
In the song, Daniels played the fiddle for both the devil and Johnny. Also, it was he who thought of how the two would sound like. He explained:
“The Devil’s just blowing smoke. If you listen to that, there’s just a bunch of noise. There’s no melody to it, there’s no nothing, it’s just a bunch of noise. Just confusion and stuff. And of course Johnny’s saying something: You can’t beat the Devil without the Lord. I didn’t have that in the song, but I should have.”
Many fans, however, expressed their thoughts that it was the devil who played a better piece. Charlie Daniels, on the other hand, disagreed with it and adamantly said:
“If you dissect it and listen to it, that’s the smoke and mirrors thing about the Devil. There’s just nothing there. I mean, there’s nothing. There’s no music involved.”
And he added:
“You can’t even remember what he plays,” he argues. “It’s just a bunch of noise.”
WATCH Charlie Daniels and his band perform “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” live at the Grand Ole Opry:
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Charlie Daniels, The Devil Went Down To Georgia