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Charlie Daniels, who died Monday, talks Devil Went Down to Georgia

Charlie Daniels performs at the Grand Ole Opry House Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
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Sad news for country-music fans: Superstar Charlie Daniels died Monday after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83.

Read more: Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels dies at 83

The country music legend has performed several times in Southwest Florida, including his 2008 show at Naples’ The Philharmonic Center for the Arts (now Artis—Naples). That’s when The News-Press interviewed him about his most famous song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Here’s that 2018 story from reporter Charles Runnells:

Signature song bedevils Charlie Daniels Band in a good way

Charlie Daniels, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died on July 6 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. The instrumentalist, singer and songwriter started as a session musician, playing for Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Tammy Wynette and others. He formed the Charlie Daniels Band in 1971, and released “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in 1979. The song shot to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Daniels a Grammy. He sold more than 13.5 million records, per the Recording Industry Association of America, logging nine Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum releases.

Let’s give “The Devil” its due.

Top of the country charts. Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Sure, Charlie Daniels has written lots of other hit songs. But none of them — none — have come close to a certain country-rock tune about Satan, Johnny and a fiddle contest down in Georgia.

“It’s kind of our signature song,” says Daniels, who plays The Phil this Friday. “I have other songs that are just as good. They just didn’t capture the imagination of the American public as much.”

Twenty-nine years later, Cat Country 107.1 FM still plays “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” at least once a day.

“It’s a favorite among our listeners,” says Mark “The Shark” Wilson, the station’s program director. “It’s still one of the most popular songs around.”

“Devil” even made it into the video game “Guitar Hero III” last year.

“That’s a whole new generation of kids that’s discovering it,” Daniels says in a phone interview from a tour stop in Greensboro, N.C. “It’s just kind of amazing, really.”

Daniels has never played the game, though. At 71 years old, he says he’s way past the target age for video games.

“I don’t do that,” he says matter-of-factly. “That’s kind of not my world.”

Besides, Daniels can play the real deal. Not on a “Guitar Hero” plastic guitar, mind you. But on a violin — or, rather, a fiddle to all you country and bluegrass fans.

Daniels and his fiddle have become synonymous for many country-music fans. Yet another after-effect of that famous song.

“I play guitar about two-thirds of the time on stage, and the fiddle only about a third,” he says. “But my biggest hit was a fiddle song. That’s what people remember.”

Charlie Daniels

Even so, Daniels’ love of making music actually started with an acoustic guitar. He was about 15 years old at the time.

This January, when Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, he didn’t bring his fiddle teacher onstage. He brought his childhood buddy Russell Palmer, who first taught him how to play on a battered old Stella guitar.

“I just went over to his house one day,” Daniels recalls. “I didn’t even know he had a guitar. And it wasn’t much of a guitar, either.”

It was good enough to learn on, though.

“I always wanted to learn to play, but I didn’t have an instrument,” he says. “We fumbled and fiddled around, and I finally learned how to play the thing.”

From those first lessons sprang country hit after country hit: “Uneasy Rider,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” and — of course — “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

And all these years later, people still love Daniels, his signature bullrider hat and his music — whether he plays it on guitar or fiddle.

“Charlie just has that cool factor,” says Wilson of Cat Country. “He tells it like it is, and he’s not afraid to ruffle some feathers.

“Plus he’s an incredible musician.”

Here’s what else Daniels had to say about: 

Being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry last January.

“That was a big deal to me,” he says. “I’ve listened to the Grand Ole Opry all my life, and I really wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to have my name written in the book with Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff and all these guys. It just means a lot.”

Whether or not he was intimidated tackling such classic blues, rock, R&B and country songs on last year’s duets album, “Deuces.”

“I spent a lot of years playing rock music,” he said. “A lot of years. And still play rock music. And play jazz and play bluegrass and gospel. So I’m not intimidated by any of it.

“I’m not intimidated by anything. If I can’t do it, I just don’t do it.”

His low-key birthday plans for Oct. 28, when he turns 72.

“I think I’m gonna be home, if I’m not mistaken,” he said. “I don’t really have any plans.

“I don’t make a big deal about my birthdays. I mean, they come and they go and you just mark another year of your life.”

How his age affects his live shows.

“I can’t jump as high as I did when I was 40,” he said. “But I still have a lot of energy.

“We (The Charlie Daniels Band) have fun playing together. That translates into energy. That’s kind of how it works.”

Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), @crunnells1 (Instagram)

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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