Bluegrass musician Eric Weissberg, whose cowl of the Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith instrumental “Dueling Banjos” grew to become an unlikely pop hit when it appeared on the soundtrack to the 1972 movie Deliverance, died Sunday at the age of 80 after a five-year wrestle with dementia. His son, Will Weissberg, confirmed the musician’s dying to Rolling Stone.
“Eric Weissberg was a consummate musician, a solid and seemingly effortless player of stringed instruments of all kinds — banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, and string bass,” his lifelong buddy and frequent collaborator Happy Traum wrote on Facebook. “Despite his prodigious talents and musical successes, he was humble, down-to-earth, and an easygoing companion with not a bit of artifice in him. He had many wonderful stories from his long career that he told in minute detail and with a twinkle of good humor that could keep you entertained for hours.”
Weissberg grew to become infatuated with the banjo at a younger age after watching a Pete Seeger efficiency at his Greenwich Village faculty as a baby. When he was eight, Seeger himself started giving him classes. He additionally attended hootenannies at Seeger’s residence, the place he was in a position to see legends like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly carry out up shut.
He enrolled at New York’s Juilliard School of Music in the late 1950s and started gigging with people acts the Greenbriar Boys and the Tarriers. As a member of the Tarriers, he backed Judy Collins on a European tour and later carried out on her 1965 LP, Fifth Album.
But his life modified endlessly in 1972 when Warner Bros. music producer Joe Boyd requested if he’d file a canopy of the 1954 Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith instrumental “Dueling Banjos” for the film Deliverance. The track is performed early in the movie, when a gaggle of 4 businessmen (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) go to a gasoline station throughout a canoe journey in a distant a part of Georgia and encounter a mentally challenged banjo participant who performs the track as an impromptu duet with Cox’s character. It’s an unsettling scene that serves as a harbinger for a lot of of the horrific occasions that come later in the movie.
“I always hated ‘Dueling Banjos’ because I had the original version, ‘Feudin’ Banjos,’ with Arthur Smith and Don Reno,” Weissberg told Banjo Newsletter in 2006. “I hated it because it wasn’t bluegrass at all. It had a rhythm section, with drums. Who needs that?”
Weissberg recorded the track in a extra conventional bluegrass fashion as a duet with guitarist Steve Mandell, and was astonished to see it to develop into a worldwide hit, reaching Number Two on Billboard’s Hot 100 in early 1973. But Smith wasn’t credited on the soundtrack and he efficiently sued Warner Bros. to obtain correct credit score.
Weissberg started touring and recording with a gaggle he referred to as Deliverance, and in 1974, they have been requested to file with Bob Dylan throughout the New York Blood on the Tracks periods. Dylan would finally re-record a lot of the album in Minneapolis with a distinct set of musicians, however Weissberg’s guitar half could be heard on “Meet Me in the Morning.” Much extra of his work with Dylan appeared on the 2018 field set, The Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks.
Over the years, Weissberg additionally labored with Billy Joel, Talking Heads, Jim Croce, and Richard Thompson. He moved to Woodstock, New York, in his later years and continued to tour and carry out till well being issues sidelined his profession.
According to his son, Weissberg was an avid sports activities fan and ardent car and motorbike collector who bought and maintained quite a few traditionally important automobiles, together with serial #BC1A (the first constructed) 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental and a 1955 Vincent Black Shadow.