First let me say, Charlie Daniels may have been channeling Led Zepplin a la Stairway To Heaven as far as the lyrics go. They fit the need of rhyme in a song that is really about the music being played. (IMO, Stairway and Devil would still be great songs if they were instrumentals.) The lyrics were there for the sake of having lyrics.
That said, I’ll give the idea that a friend and I came up with after 2 hits of acid and a bottle of Cuervo oh so many years ago.
Think this way:
Follow me a moment.
“The Devil’s in the house of the rising sun.”
Johnny is challenging the Devil to a contest to see which is the best fiddle player. Clearly, with the arrogant swagger of The Dark Lord, he has to travel the world proving he’s the best fiddler out there. But Johnny is pretty damn good as well, and Dad (follow me here) has to prove he’s still top dog.
Johnny has a genetic advantage in that the Devil is his father. His body (being the “house”) has the Devil in it. (Being the genetic code of the Devil.) Johnny’s a young man so he’s still rising in stature and fame and power.
The Devil and Johnny are practicing the age old dance of the son breaking from his father and becomming his own man. The Devil: holding onto his established reign as top dog. Johnny: using youth and guile and lessons learned from the old man, proves his worthiness.
Betting soul vs. gold fiddle? Either the Devil wins and “owns” his son, or Johnny wins and is passed the torch. See how easy this all is?
Man, I miss taking acid.