Country Throwback: Story Behind Charlie Daniels Band’s ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

by Jacklyn Krol
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How did Charlie Daniels create the iconic song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia?”

The Story Behind the Song

The song became his first No. 1 song. The tune itself tells the story of a boy named Johnny who is challenged by Satan to a fiddle duel. The song was the debut single off of his Million Mile Reflections album, a last-minute addition to the record.

Daniels sings and performs both fiddle parts from Satan and Johnny. If you pay attention to the devil’s parts, there is no specific melody and Daniels creates a chaotic, unsettling feeling behind the fiddle notes.

The hit was remixed by countless artists and truly bridged genres.

What Charlie Daniels Had to Say

Daniels revealed that the idea for the hit after he read a poem in high school, “The Mountain Whippoorwill” by Stephen Vincent Benet. “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,’ he told Song Facts.

“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.’ 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 first thing you know we had it down.”

Both lyrically and sonically, the song is a masterpiece. “The Devil’s just blowing smoke,” he added. “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.”

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