Dueling Banjos

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"Dueling Banjos"
Single by Eric Weissberg
from the album Dueling Banjos
B-side"End of a Dream"
ReleasedDecember 1972
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, Don Reno, arranged by Eric Weissberg, Steve Mandell
Producer(s)Joe Boyd
Eric Weissberg singles chronology
"Dueling Banjos"
"Reuben's Train"

"Dueling Banjos" is a bluegrass composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1954[2] by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos"; it contained riffs from Smith, recorded in 1955 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 (portrayed by The Dillards, a bluegrass group), along with Griffith himself.

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 Smith's permission. The film version was arranged and recorded by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell, but only credited to Weissberg on a single subsequently issued in December 1972. It went to second place for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973, behind Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly with His Song"; it topped the adult contemporary chart for two weeks.[3] It reached No. 1 for one week on both the Cashbox and Record World charts. It reached No. 5 on Hot Country Singles. It was nominated for the 30th Golden Globe Awards as Best Original Song.[4] The success of the single led to an album of the same name released in January 1973.

This instrumental makes use of the quoting of the first 12 notes of "Yankee Doodle".

Use in Deliverance[edit]

In Deliverance, a scene depicts Billy Redden playing it opposite Ronny Cox, who joins him on guitar and end up having a guitar vs. banjo duel. Redden plays Lonnie, a mentally challenged, inbred but extremely gifted banjo player. Redden could not play the banjo and the director thought his hand movements looked unconvincing. A local musician, Mike Addis, was brought in to depict the movement of the boy's left hand. Addis hid behind Redden, with his left arm in Redden's shirt sleeve. Careful camera angles kept Addis out of frame and completed the illusion. The music itself was dubbed in from the recording made by Weissberg and Mandell and was not played by the actors themselves.[5] 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 Weissberg and Mandell.[6]

"Dueling Banjos" was arranged and performed for the film by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell and was included on its soundtrack.[7][8] When Arthur "Boogie" Smith was not acknowledged as the composer by the filmmakers, he sued and eventually won, receiving songwriting credit as well as royalties.[9]

The song was used in the theatrical trailer of What About Bob? and briefly used in a TV commercial for the 2003 Saturn Vue.[10]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Canadian RPM Top Singles 2
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 9
South Africa (Springbok)[11] 15
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles[12] 5

Parodies and cover versions[edit]

Comedian Martin Mull spoofed the song with an instrumental Dueling Tubas on his 1973 comedy album Martin Mull & His Fabulous Furniture In Your Living Room.[13]

British punk band Toy Dolls adapted a version of the song as "Drooling Banjos" on their 1993 album Absurd-Ditties.

In Season 7, Episode 19 of America's Funniest Home Videos, which first aired in 1996, the song is heard in a video titled "Dueling Pizzas." In the video, two people pretend to play the song on cheese pulls from pizza slices. The video won the second place prize, $3,000.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dueling Banjos - Eric Weissberg". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  2. ^ Arthur Smith, video where the composer tells the story of the song's genesis, which he states is 1954 (posted to YouTube 21 August 2011)
  3. ^ Joel Whitburn (1996). Weissberg stole the song and failed to credit Arthur Smith, who sued and won to receive credit and royalties for the music that he had written in 1954 and recorded in 1955. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th Edition (Billboard Publications)
  4. ^ "Dueling Banjos". Golden Globe Award. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  5. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (5 November 2009). "Body double plays banjo". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  6. ^ James Dickey, Gordon Van Ness (2005). The One Voice of James Dickey, University of Missouri Press.
  7. ^ Alan Feiler, Editor-in-Chief (15 March 2018). "Steve Mandell of 'Dueling Banjos' Fame Dies". JMore Baltimore Jewish Living. Retrieved 19 March 2018. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ "Don Reno biography". Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) - Don Reno website (archived 2008)
  9. ^ DePriest, Joe (3 April 2014). "Charlotte's Arthur Smith, who wrote 'Dueling Banjos,' died Thursday at 93". The Charlotte Observer. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  10. ^ "2003 Saturn Vue Camping Trip Commercial". YouTube. You Tube. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  11. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 375.
  13. ^ Alterman, Loraine (3 June 1973). "Martin Mull's Fabulous Furniture". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  14. ^ Dueling Pizzas on America's Funniest Home Videos, retrieved 15 March 2024