Dueling Banjos

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"Dueling Banjos"
Single by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell
B-side "Reuben's Train"
Released 1973
Format 7-inch 45rpm
Recorded 1972
Genre Country
Length 2:10
Label Warner Bros. Records K 16223
Writer(s) Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, Don Reno, arranged by Eric Weissberg, Steve Mandell
Producer(s) Joe Boyd
Eric Weissberg singles chronology
"Dueling Banjos"
(1973)
"Reuben's Train"
(1973)

"Dueling Banjos" is an instrumental composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1955 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos", which contained riffs from "Yankee Doodle". Smith recorded it playing a four-string plectrum banjo and accompanied by five-string bluegrass banjo player Don Reno. The composition's first wide scale airing was on a 1963 television episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" called "Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee", in which it is played by visiting musical family the Darlings (played by The Dillards, a bluegrass group).

The song was made famous by the 1972 film Deliverance, which also led to a successful lawsuit by the song's composer, as it was used in the film without his permission. The film version, arranged and recorded by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell and subsequently issued as a single, went to #2 for four weeks on the Hot 100 in 1973, all four weeks behind Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song", and topped the adult contemporary chart for two weeks the same year.[1] It reached #1 for one week on both the Cashbox and Record World pop charts. The song also reached No. 5 on the Hot Country Singles chart at the same time it was on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary Singles charts.

A cover of the song by Steve Ouimette (using electric guitars, bass, and drums) was released as downloadable content for the video game Guitar Hero World Tour. The Toy Dolls also covered the song on their album Absurd-Ditties.

Use in Deliverance[edit]

In Deliverance, a scene depicts Billy Redden playing it opposite Ronny Cox, who joins him on guitar. Redden plays "Lonnie"—a mentally challenged inbred but extremely gifted banjo player. (Redden could not actually play the banjo. A local musician, Mike Addis, disguised using careful camera angles, reached around from behind Redden.[2]) Two young musicians, Ron Brentano and Mike Russo, had originally been signed to play their adaptation for the film, but instead it was performed by the others.[3]

"Dueling Banjos" was arranged and performed for the film by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell and was included on its soundtrack.[4] When Smith was not acknowledged as the composer by the filmmakers, he sued and eventually won, receiving songwriting credit as well as royalties.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
position
Canadian RPM Top Singles 2
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 9
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 5

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joel Whitburn (1996). Weissberg stole the song and failed to credit Arthur Smith. Smith sued and won to receive credit and royalties for the music that he had written in 1955. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  2. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (2009-11-05). "Body double plays banjo". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  3. ^ James Dickey, Gordon Van Ness (2005). The One Voice of James Dickey (University of Missouri Press)
  4. ^ Don Reno biography at the Wayback Machine (archived August 22, 2008) - Don Reno website (archived 2008)