The man who wrote the #1 Billboard instrumental hit “Dueling Banjos” has died. Arthur Smith passed away at his Charlotte, North Carolina home Thursday at age 93, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Smith was already known as a gifted and successful musician and composer before “Dueling Banjos” became a hit. He wrote and recorded the instrumental standard “Guitar Boogie” in 1945, a combination of rockabilly and swing rhythms that’s credited by many as one of the first true rock and roll records, if not the first. It went on to sell over three million copies, and earned Smith the moniker Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.
Smith wrote and recorded “Dueling Banjos,” then known as “Feudin’ Banjos,” in 1955, and even performed it on a 1963 episode of TV’s The Andy Griffith Show. When producers of the 1972 hit film Deliverance used it, the song — arranged and performed by Eric Weissberg — became an immediate hit, holding the #1 spot on the Billboard AC chart for two weeks in February of 1973, and cracking the top five on the Hot 100 and country singles charts. However, Smith was neither consulted about nor credited for the song’s use in Deliverance — an oversight he remedied by successfully suing Warner Brothers, receiving both credit and royalties.
Smith was also a longtime North Carolina television presence, with his own local and syndicated variety shows. He’s survived by his wife, three children, and 17 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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