Fri April 4, 2014
Dueling Banjos Writer Dies
A well-known Charlotte guitarist and TV personality has died. Arthur Smith wrote the early rock ‘n’ roll song “Guitar Boogie” and the song that became known as “Dueling Banjos.”
Smith’s song “Feudin’ Banjos” was released in 1955. When the song was redone as “Dueling Banjos” for the film Deliverance two decades later, Smith wasn’t given credit. After the song became a big hit, Smith sued Warner Brothers for royalty payments. And after a lengthy legal battle, he won.
Smith grew up in Kershaw, South Carolina, and moved to Charlotte in the 1940s where he became known on WBT radio on the program “Carolina Barndance.” Around that time he started his own radio show and had a hit with the song that gave him his nickname, “Guitar Boogie.”
That song would go on to influence legions of musicians, including Paul McCartney. In fact, it’s been reported many times “Guitar Boogie” is the song McCartney played during his tryout for a group called the Quarrymen. That band eventually became the Beatles.
In the '50s, Smith moved from radio to TV. Tom Hanchett is a historian with the Levine Museum of the New South.
“His television show was syndicated everyday in most of the major markets in the southeastern United States,” Hanchett says. “In that way he was somebody who you saw everyday, he was a good neighbor, played the music that you loved partly because he played it.”
Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith died in his home Thursday. He was 93.