On This Day: Charlie Daniels Performs at the 22nd Grammy Awards Despite Broken Arm

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Charlie Daniels, even with a broken arm, still delighted a national television audience at the Grammy Awards 41 years ago today.

Daniels’s official social media accounts took note of the anniversary. It was one of the biggest nights ever in the career of Charlie Daniels, who died last summer at the age of 83. Who didn’t love “The Devil Went Down to Georgia?”

The Instagram post said: “ON THIS DAY in 1980, despite Charlie’s broken arm, the CDB performed at the 22nd @recordingacademy Grammy Awards with Buddy Spicher & Vassar Clements assisting on fiddle, & wins a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

Charlie Daniels and His Band Celebrated Their Best Hit, Ever

“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” was Charlie Daniels’ biggest hit. The song was a huge crossover hit. It ended 1979 at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The only songs that topped it were “After the Love Was Gone” by Earth, Wind and Fire and the Knack’s “My Sharona.”

Charlie Daniels and his band played the song for the first time in front of an audience at the 1979 “Volunteer Jam” at the Nashville Auditorium. Daniels talked through the song, spinning the story of the Devil getting into a fiddle-playing contest with a kid named Johnny down in Georgia. The best part of the song came when Daniels played his fiddle, as a “band of Demons joined right in.”

But it was Johnny who won the golden fiddle and saved his own soul.

Daniels Suffered Broken Arm While Doing Work On His Ranch

About a month before the 1980 Grammys, Charlie Daniels suffered a horrific arm injury. He was digging fence posts on his ranch when he caught his shirt sleeve on an auger. Daniels suffered three fractures in his right arm and broke two fingers. He needed surgery to fix the breaks. And the injury sidelined him for four months. However, the broken arm didn’t stop Daniels from showing up at the Grammys.

Vassar Clements appeared with the Charlie Daniels band that night to play the fiddle. That was fitting. Daniels played guitar in Clements’ band in 1975, when Clements released “Lonesome Fiddle Blues.” Charlie Daniels reworked the song, including making it an octave higher, for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

That night, Charlie Daniels and his band won the Grammy for best country vocal performance by a duo or group. Kenny Rogers, who also died in 2020, was a big winner in 1980. He won the best country male vocal performance for “The Gambler.” And he won best country song for “You Decorated My Life.” Emmylou Harris took home the Grammy for best female country performance for “Blue Kentucky Girl.”

Overall, the song of the year went to Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald for “What a Fool Believes.”

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