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‘Dueling Banjos’ Songwriter Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith Dies

Arthur Smith
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

‘Dueling Banjos’ songwriter, Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith has passed away just two days after his 93rd birthday.

The songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and TV star came into the spotlight with ‘Banjo Boogie,’ a song that rose into the Billboard Top 10. Next came a song that gave Smith his nickname. ‘Guitar Boogie’ was a crossover hit that reached No. 8 and would forever influence the name he was recognized by.

Smith’s music was featured on the classic TV show ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ when one of his songs was played by the show’s bluegrass band, ‘The Darlings,’ who played it with Griffith. This was a song he recorded in 1955 called ‘Feudin’ Banjos.’

The same song got even more recognition when it was featured in the movie ‘Deliverance’ — without permission.  He fought a lawsuit against the movie and ended up winning back his songwriting credits as well as royalties from the film. ‘Dueling Banjos’ was the name it took on as the movie’s theme song. It then became Smith’s most well-known tune when it was incorporated into an important movie scene as well as the film’s soundtrack.

‘Dueling Banjos’ was officially recorded in 1973 and went to No. 1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, No. 2 on the hot 100 chart and No. 5 on the country chart. The popular song has now been recorded by some musical legends including Earl Scruggs, Roy Clark, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Sir James Galway — who recorded it on the flute.

He was also known for a recording studio he opened that hosted radio shows for Johnny Cash, Chet Akins, James Brown and more. Smith’s legend will forever live on since the Clinton, S.C. native was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Smith is survived by his wife, Dorothy, two sons, one daughter, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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