The Devil might have lost his golden fiddle but The Charlie Daniels Band took home gold for their iconic country hit. They included “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” on their 1979 album Million Mile Reflections. The song was the first and most successful of three singles from that record.
Forty-two years ago today, the RIAA certified “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Gold. Before that, the song became the Charlie Daniels Band’s biggest hit. It topped the Billboard country singles chart. At the same time, it peaked at number 3 on the publication’s Hot 100 and cracked the Adult Contemporary top 40. Today, the story of Johnny battling the Devil is still their biggest hit.
In fact, fans of all genres of music enjoy the track. The fact that a wide range of artists, including Korn, have put their own spin on the song is evidence of its mass appeal.
The RIAA certified “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Platinum in December of 1989.
More About the Charlie Daniels Band’s Biggest Hit
Charlie Daniels told Songfacts that he and the band almost didn’t record “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” However, after they had all the songs ready for Million Mile Reflections, they realized something was missing. They didn’t have a fiddle song on the record. So, they took a break from the recording studio and went back to their rehearsal space. They had a problem to remedy.
Charlie Daniels said that he may have taken some inspiration from “The Mountain Whippoorwill,” a 1925 poem about a fiddle competition. However, that poem features a poor mountain-bred hillbilly winning a fiddle competition at a fair, but the Devil never makes an appearance.
The Charlie Daniels Band’s biggest hit does include some references to older works though. If you look at the section of the song where Johnny plays the fiddle you can hear a few. “He played ‘Fire on the Mountain’…” references an old traditional fiddle tune. Check out an example of the song below.
Another line in the Charlie Daniels Band classic gives a nod to a traditional song made famous by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In their 1938 rendition of “Ida Red,” Tommy Duncan sings about being a fool for a girl named Ida Red. The third verse starts with “Chicken in the bread tray, peckin’ out dough / Granny will your dog bite? No child no.”
The lyrics aren’t exactly the same. However, the lyrics of traditional songs can change slightly from one singer to the next. The connection is definitely there.
So, when the Charlie Daniels Band started writing their biggest hit, they dug deep into the roots of traditional American music. This proves once again that it’s hard to go wrong with the classics.