Charlie Daniels’ 1979 hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” was already a huge country and pop hit by the time he performed the song in the 1980 blockbuster “Urban Cowboy.” That movie, starring John Travolta, would lead to a boom in America’s obsession with country music and the fashions that went along with the format.
Charlie tells Rare Country, “John Travolta, at that time, was the biggest teen idol on the planet. He’d just come out of the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ thing. He was just the hottest thing around. He kind of legitimized — that may be too strong of a word — he, at least, made it where kids would pay attention to country music. A lot of them found out they liked it. We had people wearing cowboy hats in New York City and all over the country back then.”
Along with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack contained hits from Kenny Rogers, Mickey Gilley and Anne Murray, as well as rock-oriented acts like Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, The Eagles and Bob Seger. The “Urban Cowboy” craze made it cool for a whole new generation of young folks to embrace country music.
Looking back now, Charlie says, “A lot of them stayed around. A lot of them didn’t. They moved to orange hair and whatever else was coming along. But a lot of them did stay around. I think it was a big shot in the arm for country music.”
You can see the ACM Award and the platinum album plaque Charlie got for the “Urban Cowboy” soundtrack in his brand-new Million Mile Reflections exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
As for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie can’t play a show without doing that song, which has become the defining hit of his career.
“It’s the last song we do,” Charlie says. “What are we gonna do after that? We wouldn’t have anything to follow it with. If we played it first people would probably just leave, get up and go home. No, that’s the last song we do.”