50 Greatest City, State, And Town Songs – #11: “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band
“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band
Album: “Million Mile Reflections”
Chart Peak: #3
City, State, or Town: Georgia
Ask any music fan of any genre about country music or, more specifically, southern rock and you get two answers. The most memorable band, Lynard Skynard, and the most memorable song, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, which stands as the only hit to give “Sweet Home Alabama” a challenge. Charlie, one of the most powerful fiddlers in the genre, tells to oh so popular story of the devil’s attempt to inflict that sin of temptation upon a man named Johnny and challenges to a fiddle match putting up his legendary golden fiddle for Johnny’s soul. Thus begins one of the most memorable and influential stories to ever hit radio.
For those of you not familiar with one of the most memorable stories of all time, here’s how it goes. Charlie is the storyteller narrating the events as they occur. When the devil falls behind on his soul snatching quota he goes to Georgia in search of an unsuspecting soul to tempt and steal away for his own. Thus he finds Johnny, a fiddle player who is very high strung. Taking advantage of this the devil puts up his golden fiddle in a bet against Johnny’s soul that he will beat Johnny in a fiddle match. On that note Johnny makes the deal and accepts the devils tempting challenge to prove his worth as an instrumentalist against the evil forces of hell.
The devil goes first in what becomes a series of haunting and Gothic instrumental compositions beginning with the hiss of his bow. Upon hearing the devil’s attempt at greatness Johnny shows little sign of worry and tells the devil “watch this”. he begins to play a song that would become one of the worlds most popular phrases, “Fire on the moun, run boys, run/ The devil’s in the house of the risin’ sun/ Chicken in the bread pin, pickin’ out dough/ ‘Granny, does your dog bite?’/ ‘No, child, no.'” Following this Johnny breaks out into free style in what has become Charlie’s signature instrumental and one of the most popular musical takes in any given band in America. To make the rest short, Johnny wins the fiddle and tells the devil off and offers him a rematch anytime he wants. As the devil fades off Charlie plays his song yet again to close out on his new fiddle.
When you think Georgia, you think this song. That’s that. It takes what was the popular “pact with the devil” scenario that haunted music and the big screen and turns it into what has become one of the biggest American classics. What many people may not realize is the story doesn’t stop there. Another song in 1993 was recorded and put to video by Mark O’Connor, Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash and Marty Stuart and Johnny with Travis Tritt as the devil which was called “The Devil Came Back To Georgia” and tells the continuation of the tale years later when the devil takes Johnny up on his offer for a rematch. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” has become a timeless classic among music fans everywhere and set a whole new stage for music today. This will forever live on as one of the most effective songs in history and the most famous song reference to Georgia that you could find.