40 Years Ago: Charlie Daniels Earns Gold Single for ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’
Charlie Daniels' single "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" earned gold status, signifying sales in excess of 500,000 units, 40 years ago today (Aug. 21, 1979). The song was the debut single from Daniels' Million Mile Reflections album.
In addition to going gold, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" also became Daniels' first No. 1 hit. The artist co-wrote the song with five other writers, as a last-minute addition to the record on which it appears.
"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,'" Daniels recalls to Songfacts. "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," Daniels adds. "He didn't use that line, but I just started, and the band started playing, and first thing you know, we had it down."
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" tells the story of a boy named Johnny, who makes a deal with the devil, wagering his own soul for a chance at a golden fiddle. It became Daniels' biggest hit, reaching No. 3 on the pop charts as well. The song was also used in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta and Debra Winger.
Daniels included "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on several of his compilation albums, including A Decade of Hits in 1983, Super Hits in 1994, Fiddle Fire: 25 Years of the CDB in 1998 and 2006's 16 Biggest Hits.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.