Who did Dueling Banjos? Uncovering the Legends Behind the Iconic Music of the ’70s

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As a movie fan, I’m sure you’ve heard the question “Who did Dueling Banjos?” at least once in your life. The iconic scene from the 1972 film “Deliverance” has become a classic in the entertainment world, and its catchy theme has been heard in many different contexts. But who were the musicians behind this unforgettable tune? In this article, I’ll be exploring the fascinating history behind the music and the people who made it happen. Get ready to find out all about the origin of Dueling Banjos!

History of Dueling Banjos

History Of Dueling Banjos

The song “Dueling Banjos” or “Feuding Banjos” has been popular since its origin in the early 1960s. It was initially composed for the film Deliverance, which was released in 1972. The song was created by a group of musicians from the Bluegrass State of North Carolina and was composed of a banjo duet by Arthur Smith and Don Reno.

The song was composed of two parts, the first part being a solo banjo performance by Smith and the second part being a duet between Smith and Reno. The song was initially released as a single in 1962, and was later included in the film Deliverance in 1972. The song became an instant hit, reaching number two on the Billboard Top 40 chart.

Since its release, “Dueling Banjos” has become an iconic part of American culture, being featured in various films, television shows, and advertisements. It has been covered by numerous artists, including Steve Martin, Kenny Rogers, and Eric Clapton.

The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009 and was voted one of the top 100 songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. It is still considered one of the most iconic banjo tunes of all time.

Year Event
1962 Released as single
1972 Included in the film Deliverance
2009 Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame

Dueling Banjos in Film

Dueling Banjos In Film

  • Deliverance (1972) – A classic scene featuring “Dueling Banjos” between the character of Ronny Cox and a mountain boy.
  • The Waterboy (1998) – Adam Sandler’s character duels with a banjo-playing Mardi Gras reveler.
  • The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Two characters in a car, one playing a guitar, the other playing a banjo.
  • The Campaign (2012) – A scene featuring a banjo duel between Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
  • The Internship (2013) – Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson engage in a banjo duel.

The song “Dueling Banjos” has been used in many films since it was first featured in the 1972 movie Deliverance, which starred Ronny Cox. The most famous scene in the movie is when his character duels a mountain boy on banjos. In addition to Deliverance, “Dueling Banjos” has been featured in other films, such as The Waterboy (1998), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), The Campaign (2012), and The Internship (2013). In The Waterboy, Adam Sandler’s character duels with a banjo-playing Mardi Gras reveler. In The Devil’s Rejects, two characters in a car, one playing a guitar, the other playing a banjo, provide a darkly humorous take on the song. In The Campaign, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis engage in a banjo duel, and in The Internship, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson do the same.

“Dueling Banjos” has been used in many films over the years, bringing a familiar sound and timeless classic to the big screen.

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Who Played Dueling Banjos in Deliverance

Who Played Dueling Banjos In Deliverance
The famous instrumental song Dueling Banjos was featured in the 1972 movie Deliverance, which starred Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox. The song, which was composed by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell, was featured in the memorable scene in which two of the characters, mountain boy Billy Redden and Drew, played the song as a duet. Redden was a local boy from Georgia who was cast in the role due to his naturally shy demeanour and lack of acting experience. He was backed up by Steve Mandell, who played the guitar. The scene has become iconic and the song has become a classic in its own right, with versions being recorded by a number of different artists.

Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell

Eric Weissberg And Steve Mandell

  • Eric Weissberg was an American multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and record producer.
  • He is best known for his instrumental version of the traditional folk song “Dueling Banjos”, which became a major hit in 1973.
  • He was a member of the folk group the Tarriers in the mid-1950s, and later joined the group Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band.
  • He was also a session musician, playing on albums by Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, and Simon & Garfunkel.
  • Steve Mandell was an American musician, arranger, and producer.
    He was a member of Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, and played on Eric Weissberg’s version of “Dueling Banjos”.
  • He was a studio musician, arranger, and engineer, working with artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Simon & Garfunkel.
  • He also produced albums for artists such as John Denver, John Prine, and Loggins & Messina.

Popularity of Dueling Banjos

Popularity Of Dueling Banjos

Year Event
1972 The song “Dueling Banjos” was released on the movie Deliverance soundtrack
1973 The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song
1974 The song won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance
1975-2015 It was featured in films, television shows, video games, and advertisements
2016 The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame

The song “Dueling Banjos” quickly rose to fame after its inclusion in the 1972 film Deliverance. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1973, and won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1974. Since then, the song has been used in films, television shows, video games, and advertisements, becoming a classic and an iconic part of American music culture. In 2016, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Cover Versions of Dueling Banjos

Cover Versions Of Dueling Banjos

  • Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell – Dueling Banjos (1972)
  • John Hartford – Dueling Banjos (1972)
  • Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed – Dueling Banjos (1975)
  • The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Duelin’ Banjos (1976)
  • The Charlie Daniels Band – Dueling Banjos (1977)
  • Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings – Duelin’ Banjos (1978)
  • The Eagles – Dueling Banjos (1978)
  • Dolly Parton – Dueling Banjos (1979)
  • Sammy Kershaw – Duelin’ Banjos (1995)
  • Ricky Skaggs & Earl Scruggs – Duelin’ Banjos (2002)
  • Steve Martin & Earl Scruggs – Dueling Banjos (2005)
  • Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn – Duelin’ Banjos (2015)

Influence of Dueling Banjos

  • Released in 1972, the song “Dueling Banjos” quickly became a classic in the American music canon.
  • The song was featured in the movie “Deliverance”, and its popularity increased significantly after that.
  • The track is a duet between a banjo and a guitar, and it has a catchy and upbeat melody.
  • The song has been covered by a range of artists, including Eric Clapton, Tony Rice and Steve Martin.
  • It has also been featured in a number of films and TV shows, such as “The Simpsons”, “Friends” and “Scrubs”.
  • The song has been used as a symbol of the rural South and has become a popular bluegrass standard.
  • The influence of “Dueling Banjos” can be seen in a variety of musical genres, from folk to rock.

Frequently Asked Questions

What movie featured the iconic dueling banjo scene?

The iconic dueling banjo scene was featured in the 1972 movie, “Deliverance”. The scene features two young men, one on a guitar and the other on a banjo, playing an improvised rendition of “Dueling Banjos” in the Georgia wilderness. The scene has become one of the most iconic and memorable scenes in cinematic history.

Who was the actor playing the banjo in Deliverance?

In the 1972 classic film Deliverance, the actor playing the banjo in the iconic “Dueling Banjos” scene is Billy Redden. Redden was only 13 years old when the movie was filmed and was chosen because of his banjo playing ability. The other banjo player in the scene is Doug Kershaw, a Louisiana fiddle player.

Who wrote the song “Dueling Banjos”?

The song “Dueling Banjos” was written by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith and Doug Dillard in 1955. It gained widespread recognition after the 1972 film Deliverance, in which it was performed by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell. The song has been covered by numerous artists and became a hit in 1973.

How did the song “Dueling Banjos” become so popular?

The song “Dueling Banjos” first appeared in the 1972 movie “Deliverance”, where it was performed by guitarists Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel. The song was an immediate hit and went on to become an international sensation, selling millions of copies. It was also famously covered by many other musicians, including The Allman Brothers, The Charlie Daniels Band, and Elton John. It has been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials, further increasing its popularity. It is now considered a classic and is widely recognized as one of the most iconic instrumentals of all time.

What other films have featured the song “Dueling Banjos”?

The 1972 film “Deliverance” featured the song “Dueling Banjos” as the soundtrack to a memorable scene between the character of Drew and a young mountain boy. The song has also featured in other films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991), “Stealing Home” (1988), “The Waterboy” (1998), “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005), “The Break-Up” (2006), and “We’re the Millers” (2013).


The classic movie scene in “Deliverance” featuring the iconic song “Dueling Banjos” has become a classic of the silver screen. The song was originally composed by Arthur Smith and recorded by Eric Weisberg and Steve Mandell in 1973. It has since been covered by many artists and featured in films, television shows, and commercials. The song has become a classic of Americana and has been an inspiration to many musicians. Its popularity and influence have endured for over four decades and it is still one of the most recognizable songs of all time.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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