Eric Weissberg

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Eric Weissberg
Born (1939-08-16) August 16, 1939 (age 75)
Origin New York
Genres Country, bluegrass
Instruments Banjo, steel guitar
Years active 1958–present
Labels Elektra, Warner Bros.
Associated acts The Tarriers
Website ericweissberg.com

Eric Weissberg (born August 16, 1939) is an American singer, banjo player and multi-instrumentalist, best known for playing solo in "Dueling Banjos," featured as the theme of the movie Deliverance (1972) and released as a single that reached number 1 in 1973 in the United States and Canada.

A member of the folk group, the Tarriers, for years, Weissberg later developed a successful career as a sessions musician. He has played and recorded with numerous leading rock and popular musicians and groups of the late 20th century. Weissberg also continues to play at folk festivals.

Biography[edit]

Eric Weissberg went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and to the Juilliard School of Music. He joined an early version of the Greenbriar Boys (1958–59), but left before they made any recordings. He joined The Tarriers, replacing Erik Darling. At the time, the Tarriers had recently had a hit with "Banana Boat Song"; Harry Belafonte's version, released soon afterward, became a bigger hit.

Weissberg was taken on as a string-bass player, but the group soon made use of his multi-instrumental talents as banjo player, fiddler, guitarist, mandolin player, and singer. He started performing with the Tarriers while still a student at Juilliard. His first album with The Tarriers, Tell The World About This (1960), has a much rougher feel than the smoothly produced sound of The Weavers or The Kingston Trio.

In 1964 he had one-year's service with the National Guard, which he had earlier joined. After his return, the Tarriers re-formed. In 1965 the group accompanied Judy Collins on a tour of Poland and Russia, but disbanded soon after. Collins was sufficiently impressed with his musicianship to use Weissberg as a session musician on Fifth Album (1965) and several later albums.

Commercially, interest in acoustic folk groups was waning. Weissberg developed a successful career as a session musician, playing on albums by The Clancy Brothers, Doc Watson, Melanie, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III, Talking Heads, Tom Paxton, Jim Croce, Art Garfunkel, John Denver, Ronnie Gilbert and others.

He is well-known for playing the banjo solo in "Dueling Banjos", used as the theme in the film Deliverance (1972), produced by Joe Boyd and directed by John Boorman. It was released later as a single and became a hit: played on Top 40, AOR, and country stations alike. It reached the Top Ten and was hit #1 in the US and Canada.[1]

Weissberg released a related album, called Dueling Banjos: From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 'Deliverance' (1973), which also became a hit. The album was made up mostly of tracks which Weissberg had recorded on New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass (1963), with Marshall Brickman and Clarence White. (Also a screenwriter, Brickman later received an Oscar for Annie Hall.) They removed two tracks from the 1963 album and added the track for "Dueling Banjos," releasing it under the new name. One of the original 1963 tracks on the new album, "Shuckin' The Corn," was later sampled by Beastie Boys.

Warner Brothers was sued by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, the composer of "Feudin' Banjos", which he had written and recorded in 1955. It was renamed as "Dueling Banjos" in the movie. He won a "substantial settlement,"[2] which included appended film credit for the song and a portion of royalties.

Continuing to play folk festivals, Weissberg is nearly as well known in that venue for his dobro guitar as for his bluegrass banjo playing. He has also recorded with jazz musicians Herbie Mann and Bob James. In 1998, he joined Richard Thompson and dozens of other folk musicians on Nanci Griffith's album, Other Voices Too.

He often tours with Tom Paxton. They frequently play a variant of "Dueling Banjos" in the set, in addition to Paxton's material.

On February 12, 2009, Weissberg performed at the Riverside Church in New York City with the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, to honor President Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Directed by Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson's The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra, in which Weissberg played solo banjo.[3]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Chart positions R.I.A.A.[4] Label
US Country US CAN
1963 New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass Elektra
1973 Dueling Banjos 1 1 1 Gold Warner Bros.
Rural Free Delivery 196
1996 Banjo Jamboree: Tradition Series Rykodisc

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions R.I.A.A.[4] Album
US AC US US Country CAN AC CAN CAN Country
1973 "Dueling Banjos" (with Steve Mandell) 1 2 5 1 2 9 Gold Dueling Banjos
"Reuben's Train" 69 71
1975 "Yakety Yak" (with Deliverance) 91 single only

Session recordings[edit]

  • The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone (The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken, 1962)
  • "Sunny's Gallery of Folk Songs" (Sunny Schwartz, 1963)
  • Fifth Album (Judy Collins, 1965)
  • Live At Newport (1959–1966) (Judy Collins)
  • Ballads From Deep Gap (Doc and Merle Watson, 1967)
  • The Good Book (Melanie, 1971)
  • Poems, Prayers & Promises (John Denver, 1971)
  • Portfolio (Richie Havens, 1973)
  • Rocky Mountain High (John Denver, 1973)
  • True Stories and Other Dreams (Judy Collins, 1973)
  • John Denver's Greatest Hits (John Denver, 1973)
  • Piano Man (Billy Joel, 1973)
  • Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan, 1974)
  • Judith (Judy Collins, 1975)
  • Free Beer (Free Beer, 1975)
  • Sing Children Sing: Songs of the United States of America (UNICEF, 1977)
  • Final Exam (Loudon Wainwright III, 1978)
  • Little Creatures (Talking Heads, 1985)
  • Album III (Loudon Wainwright III, 1990)
  • Heroes (Tom Paxton, 1992)
  • Judy Sings Dylan ... Just Like a Woman (Judy Collins, 1993)
  • Shameless (Judy Collins, 1994)
  • Take The Fifth (compilation; Bridget St John, 1995)
  • Other Voices Too (Nanci Griffith, 1998)
  • Live For The Record (Tom Paxton, 1999)
  • Times Like These (Rick Danko, 2000)
  • Live at Wolf Trap (Judy Collins, 2002)
  • Copper: Original Soundtrack (Brian Keane, 2013)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Arthur Smith passes", Bluegrass Today, 4 August 2014, accessed 27 August 2014
  2. ^ Joe De Priest, "Charlotte’s Arthur Smith, who wrote ‘Dueling Banjos,’ died Thursday at 93", Charlotte Observer, 3 April 2014, accessed 27 August 2014
  3. ^ "Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Gala Concert", Riverside Church, NY blog, 1 February 2009, accessed 27 August 2014
  4. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 338. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 

External links[edit]