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The song is written in the key of D minor. Vassar Clements originally wrote the basic melody an octave lower, in a tune called "Lonesome Fiddle Blues" released on Clements' self-titled album on which Charlie Daniels played guitar. The Charlie Daniels Band moved it up an octave and put words to it. The song's verses are closer to being spoken rather than sung i. The performances of Satan and Johnny are played as instrumental bridges. The song is an uptempo bluegrass song about the Devil 's failed attempt to gain a young man's soul through a fiddle -playing contest that involves enticing the young man's participation with a worldly prize. The song begins as a disappointed Devil arrives in Georgia , apparently "way behind" on stealing souls , when he comes upon a fiddle-playing young man named Johnny. At that moment, Johnny happens to be playing his fiddle impressively "hot. The Devil offers to give Johnny a golden fiddle if the young man plays better than he does; otherwise, the Devil will gain Johnny's soul. Although Johnny believes taking the Devil's bet might be a sin , he wagers his soul without fear, confidently boasting that he is "the best that's ever been.