Thirty-Five and Counting

May 16 | Posted by: Charlie | Tags: Music

For the past three and a half decades, the signature song of The Charlie Daniels Band has been “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” It is our most requested song, we play it at every show and I've been asked just about every question you can imagine about how and why we wrote it, where the idea came from and so forth.

While it would seem that if there was a song in the CDB repertoire with an interesting story behind it's creation it would be this one, some classic tale of dark intrigue or revelations of some vicarious experiences remembered or embellished old wives tales of times long gone.

Actually, none of this happens to be the case. In fact, the story of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” is ordinary and mundane to the point of being boring, except the result is extremely exciting, at least to the fiddle player of record.

The truth of the matter is, in 1979 we had written and arranged an album's worth of songs for what would become Million Mile Reflections and were excited about recording them. We would be working with a new producer, John Boylan, who had a proven track record and some new ideas, we would be bringing in a state of the art recording engineer from Los Angeles and we were set to make a great record.

We moved our gear into Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville and began the recording process. We had only been there a few days when we came to the glaring realization that, "we ain't got no fiddle tune."

We made the decision, necessity being the mother and all that, to just take a break and write one, so we packed up our equipment and moved from the recording studio to a rehearsal studio and set about coming up with a fiddle tune for our new album.

As much as I've thought about it, the nearest reason I can come up with to being an inspiration for the song is a poem I had read in high school called “The Mountain Whippoorwill,” a piece written by Stephen Vincent Benet about a young mountain born fiddle player entering a fiddle contest against some legendary fiddle players and coming out on top by playing about the whippoorwills, the waterfalls and the natural sounds of the mountains where he was born.

I remember being really impressed with the piece and remembered bits and pieces of it over the years, but I'm not consciously aware of any of it making it directly into the song.

I don't know where it came from, but the phrase "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" was in my mind and I sat down with the band and we started bouncing around musical ideas, drumbeats, bass licks, guitar riffs, fiddle runs and I started coming up with a line of lyric here and there.

Taz, our keyboard player, came up with the classic music that plays under the devil's fiddle part, Tommy Crain added the minor key chords that run on top of it, Charlie Hayward walked a heavy bass line doubling what Taz was playing on the piano and drummers Freddie Edwards and Jim Marshall laid down a steady beat, and we were off and running.

It didn't take long before the lyrics started flowing the arrangement fairly fell in place after we got the beat and the feel established and a couple of days later we walked back in to Woodland Sound Studios to cut a record that would kick our career up a bunch of notches.

The devil's fiddle presented a bit of a challenge, it needed to be big and mean without actually making a lot of sense. That was in the day before all the electronic bells and whistles made that sort of thing so easy to do, and we accomplished it by my actually playing seven different fiddle parts and mixing them together to get the burst of out-of-control energy that kicks off the devil's fiddle.

The devil’s part is just noise, but when young Johnny steps up, he's playing something you can pat your foot and hum along to, so, naturally, he won the contest.

I have no idea how many times we have performed the song but it presents a challenge every time we play it and our stage arrangement has evolved quite a lot over the years.

It's always the closing song for the simple reason that we don't have anything to follow it with.

On May 21, 2014 it will have been 35 years since "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was released as a single.

I've worn out a lot of fiddle bows on that ole 35-year-old tune.

Hope you folks have had as much fun as we have.

What do you think?

Pray for our troops and the peace of Jerusalem.

God Bless America

Charlie Daniels

Battle of Kennesaw Mountain 150th -
June 27th, 1864 / June 27th, 2014

The Devil (Yankee General William T. Sherman) went down to Georgia ,
He was lookin' for a soul to steal
He was in a bind , Cause he was way behind
(Yankee troops were losing huge numbers at New Hope Church & Picket's Mill),
And he was willin' to make a deal
When he came across this young man
(General Sherman had more experience in and knowledge of Georgia than his counterpart)
Sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot
And the devil jumped Up on a hickory stump
And said boy let me tell you what
I guess you didn't know it , But I'm a fiddle player too . And if you care to take a dare I'll make a bet with you
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy , But give the devil his due - I'll bet a fiddle of gold Against your soul
Cause I think I'm better than you
The boy said my name's Johnny
(Confederate General Joseph Johnston / Johnny Reb )
And it might be a sin
But I'll take your bet And you're gonna regret
Cause I'm the best there's ever been

Johnny rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard
Cause ”Hell's broke loose in Georgia”
(Exact quote from the war diary of Sam Watkins 'Company Aytch' 1st Tennessee @ Battle of Kennesaw Mountain)
and The Devil deals the cards , And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold But if you lose The Devil gets your soul.

The Devil opened up his case (Case is also known as Canister shot)
And he said I'll start this show (Yankees did fire first artillery)
And fire flew from his fingertips As he rosined up his bow
( The forces on Kennesaw Mountain were arrayed in the shape of a bow)
Then he pulled the bow across the strings And it made a evil hiss
And a band of demons joined in And it sounded something like this

When The Devil finished Johnny said well you're pretty good old son
Just sit down in that chair right there And let me show you how it's done

He played Fire on the Mountain
(Numerous reports of the top of Kennesaw Mountain looked as if it was on fire)
Run boys, run , The Devil 's in the House of the Rising Sun
(House of the Rising Sun is a song that references Louisiana, and Sherman was for a short time the Superintendent of what would become LSU)
Chicken in a bread pan pickin' out dough Granny does your dog bite No child, no

The Devil bowed his head Because he knew that he'd been beat
And he laid that golden fiddle On the ground at Johnny 's feet
Johnny said, Devil just come on back If you ever want to try again
I done told you once you son of a gun I'm the best there's ever been

And he played Fire on the Mountain Run boys, run The Devil 's in the House of the Rising Sun
Chicken in a bread pan pickin' out dough Granny will your dog bite No child, no

Battle of Kennesaw Mountain 150th -
June 27th, 1864 / June 27th, 2014

The Devil (Yankee General William T. Sherman) went down to Georgia ,
He was lookin' for a soul to steal
He was in a bind , Cause he was way behind
(Yankee troops were losing huge numbers at New Hope Church & Picket's Mill),
And he was willin' to make a deal
When he came across this young man
(General Sherman had more experience in and knowledge of Georgia than his counterpart)
Sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot
And the devil jumped Up on a hickory stump
And said boy let me tell you what
I guess you didn't know it , But I'm a fiddle player too . And if you care to take a dare I'll make a bet with you
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy , But give the devil his due - I'll bet a fiddle of gold Against your soul
Cause I think I'm better than you
The boy said my name's Johnny
(Confederate General Joseph Johnston / Johnny Reb )
And it might be a sin
But I'll take your bet And you're gonna regret
Cause I'm the best there's ever been

Johnny rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard
Cause ”Hell's broke loose in Georgia”
(Exact quote from the war diary of Sam Watkins 'Company Aytch' 1st Tennessee @ Battle of Kennesaw Mountain)
and The Devil deals the cards , And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold But if you lose The Devil gets your soul.

The Devil opened up his case (Case is also known as Canister shot)
And he said I'll start this show (Yankees did fire first artillery)
And fire flew from his fingertips As he rosined up his bow
( The forces on Kennesaw Mountain were arrayed in the shape of a bow)
Then he pulled the bow across the strings And it made a evil hiss
And a band of demons joined in And it sounded something like this

When The Devil finished Johnny said well you're pretty good old son
Just sit down in that chair right there And let me show you how it's done

He played Fire on the Mountain
(Numerous reports of the top of Kennesaw Mountain looked as if it was on fire)
Run boys, run , The Devil 's in the House of the Rising Sun
(House of the Rising Sun is a song that references Louisiana, and Sherman was for a short time the Superintendent of what would become LSU)
Chicken in a bread pan pickin' out dough Granny does your dog bite No child, no

The Devil bowed his head Because he knew that he'd been beat
And he laid that golden fiddle On the ground at Johnny 's feet
Johnny said, Devil just come on back If you ever want to try again
I done told you once you son of a gun I'm the best there's ever been

And he played Fire on the Mountain Run boys, run The Devil 's in the House of the Rising Sun
Chicken in a bread pan pickin' out dough Granny will your dog bite No child, no

Thank you Charlie and band..........My kids were brought up on this song and we all loved it many times over, usually on an all nighter driving to Florida from Canada.

I saw you at Immokolee last year and will never forget the show.........All the best to you and yours......

Congratulations to you and the band, charlie, for 35 years of entertaining us all with this song! When ever it comes on every body joins in and has some fun!

Hail to you Charlie and the entire CDB for another 35 years of the Devil Went Down to Georgia and all the great music yet to come. There's no question that it's a classic CDB song, but I was already well inside the CDB camp after previously buying Fire on the Mountain, Nightrider, Saddle Tramp, High Lonesome and Midnight Wind and all the great songs on those albums.

Though I have also gone through repeated cassettes and CD's, I still have the original vinyl albums I bought back in the 70's scratches and all. I'll never give those up. Never!!

Keep on truckin' and churnin' it out!!

God Bless from God's Country – Israel Mountain Vintner

Hail to you Charlie and the entire CDB for another 35 years of the Devil Went Down to Georgia and all the great music yet to come. There's no question that it's a classic CDB song, but I was already well inside the CDB camp after previously buying Fire on the Mountain, Nightrider, Saddle Tramp, High Lonesome and Midnight Wind and all the great songs on those albums.

Though I have also gone through repeated cassettes and CD's, I still have the original vinyl albums I bought back in the 70's scratches and all. I'll never give those up. Never!!

Keep on truckin' and churnin' it out!!

From God's Country – Israel Mountain Vintner

I've worn out a few cassette tapes and put a lot of mileage on a number of CD players listening to it! It's one of my favorites, I guess, although I truly love so many of your songs that I have to call ALL of them my favorites. Congratulations!

Amen & Amen Charlie, another great example of what God can do when everyone is flowing together. Here's to another 35 great years. God Bless Plowboy

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