How duelling banjos became a famous song

How duelling banjos became a famous song

Published: 1st April 2018 | Updated: 12th September 2018 | Author: Joff Lowson

So you’ve been wondering how duelling banjos became famous, well you’re in the right place. The song has a rich history, filled with a humble beginning by banjo legends right up to Hollywood stardom and even controversy. Stay tuned as we’re are going to dive in…

Who actually wrote the song?…

Duelling Banjos was initially composed by Arthur Smith (Sometimes called Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith) in 1954 and was first called ‘Feudin’ Banjos’! It contained all sorts of entertaining riffs from another classic song, ‘Yankee Doodle.’

Originally, Dulling Banjos (or Dueling Banjos) was called something else…

When Smith first recorded ‘Feudin’ Banjos’ 1955, he was playing a 4-string plectrum banjo and was joined by the classic 5-string bluegrass banjoist, Don Reno.

From there, almost 10 years later, this classic banjo due, finally made an airing…

The song’s first country-wide airing was in 1963 on a TV episode of ‘The Andy Griffith Show‘ which was called “Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee”.

The most pivotal and globally recognised appearance of ‘Duelling Banjos’ was in the 1972 film, Deliverance. This was the very moment that Smith’s original composition become famous worldwide.

But there was controversy over deliverances use of Smith’s masterpiece…

The film led to a successful lawsuit by Smith as the song was used without his permission. Eric Weissberg claimed copyright as he arranged the film version and took all the credit.

Smith did win the lawsuit, and today the song is widely played by banjoists both beginners and seasoned banjo veterans, worldwide.

In summary…

‘Duelling Banjos’ has been in itself a compelling journey from its inception right the way through its numerous appearances in show business. It even attracted controversy and is widely played and enjoyed globally, on more than just the banjo. Now you know the rich history, it’s time for you to start playing Duelling Banjos on your banjo.