On This Day: Charlie Daniels Band First Performed ‘Devil Went Down To Georgia’

by Atlanta Northcutt

The devil lost his golden fiddle in front of a live audience for the first time 41 years ago today during Charlie Daniels Band’s performance of the classic hit.

Although Johnny didn’t take on the devil in Georgia, he did kick Satan’s butt in Nashville as the group played their first live performance of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in 1979 at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium.

The Devil Went Down to Nashville

During the fifth annual concert of Charlie Daniels Band’s “Volunteer Jam” in Nashville, the fiddle flew as the group debuted the famous song to the crowd. The show was packed since Lynyrd Skynyrd was on the roster to play for the first time since the deadly plane crash two years before.

Charlie Daniels and the boys, including Charlie Hayward, Tom Crain, Joel Digregorio, Don Murray, and Fred Edwards stand on the stage as Charlie makes an announcement to the crowd as calmy as can be.

“Here is a song we just finished writing and recording and we are going to do it for the very first time in public tonight…This is called ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’.”

Charlie Daniels’ Fast and Fiery Fiddle-Playing

In the blink of an eye, an ungodly fast tempo is released from Charlie Daniels’ fiddle. The band provides the talented instrumentals to go along with the fast-paced, foot-stomping jam. The real focus is on Charlie while sawing his fiddle so quickly it’s surprising the instrument didn’t burst into flames.

The song became the Charlie Daniels Band’s most popular and iconic song. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” appears on the album Million Mile Reflections later in 1979. The song became an instant chart-topper and was certified gold.

The Story Behind “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

The tale behind the No. 1 hit isn’t a new story. In fact, it’s based on the old tall-tale of the devil standing at the crossroads while tuning a musician’s guitar. The story goes if you give your soul to Satan, he will grant you miraculous musical talents. He also grants fame and glory if they win.

This story continuously evolves into countless versions in many genres over the years.

Charlie Daniels’ take on the tale involves the devil asking to battle a boy named Johnny in a fiddling match. The devil obviously finds himself quite talented and offers Johnny his own personal golden fiddle if he was to win. However, there’s a catch. If the young man loses, the devil wins his soul.

Daniels’often speaks the words throughout the song as he tells the story. The difference in the musical composition between the devil playing versus Johnny amplifies the tale. It provides both characters with their own unique sound, giving listeners a perspective on both.

Johnny ends up taking down the devil. He says, “I done told you once, you son of a b***h, I’m the best that’s ever been.”

Charlie’s extreme fiddle skills could trick a listener into believing he’d sold his own soul for his lightning-fast playing. With Charlie Daniels Band’s fiery folk and country song, the group, particularly Daniels, shot to tremendous fame. “The “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” lives on as popular as ever.