HELP! I hear banjos...

HELP! I hear banjos...

One of the most iconic scenes in American film history…a guitar wielding city slicker and a young boy in a bluegrass battle royale.   

But there is more to the story.

  1. Did the actor, Ronny Cox, actually play the guitar himself in the movie?

  2. And what guitar was he playing?

  3. And why is it important on this Friday?

1)  Yes, Ronny Cox actually plays the guitar in the movie and was a very active musician, favoring music over acting.  However, the audio in the movie and on the soundtrack was recorded by picker Steve Mandell and Eric Weissberg on the banjo.  

It earned the two a Grammy in 1974. 

The tune was originally recorded by Arthur Smith in 1955, named “Feudin Banjos”, the original song actually featured two banjos.  Warner Brothers didn’t get his permission to use the song in the movie.  Whoops!  It cost a bundle for Smith to fight in court, but an easy win in his favor and Warner Brothers had to pay up.  

My original guitar/banjo sheet music from the mid 90s

2)  In the movie Ronny Cox plays an Epiphone 6730 jumbo dreadnought. It’s a fine guitar but nothing fancy, sporting a spruce top with mahogany back and sides, rosewood fretboard, and adjustable bridge. 

Of course, who would bring their Martin D-28 on a camping trip?

These guitars were made in Kalamazoo, MI from 1960 to 1969.  Thereafter, nearly all production moved to Japan (some in Korea for a couple of years) and Epiphone guitars were built in the Matsumoku factory.  Aria was used as the contracting agent between Epi and Matsumoku.  

3)  DELIVERANCE Country!! That’s where I’m going…

The river scenes were shot on the Chattooga River in the hills of northeast Georgia, near the South Carolina state line.  The Chattooga River headwaters are in Cashiers, NC a mountain tourism destination which is about an hour and half southwest of Asheville if that is any point of reference for you.  

As the crow flies the Chattooga River headwaters is about 55 miles from a little town in North Carolina called Hot Springs, into which the French Broad River flows on a journey into Douglas Lake.  Beyond Douglas Lake the French Broad and Holston River confluence occurs in Knoxville and the Tennessee River is born.  

Parts of the French Broad are about as rural and rugged as it gets in the Southeast.  

The French Broad north of Hot Springs is where I’ll be spending the weekend with eight other guys canoeing about 25 miles Friday through Sunday and primitive camping along the river bank.

No cell reception. And praying we don’t hear any banjos :-).

It’s inevitable comments from the movie will come up during the trip. The better question is how many times?  Some of you may ask “why”? 

It’s like going on vacation to the beach and watching Jaws on TBS.  You can’t help it. Plus we’re a bunch of knuckleheads!

Here’s a bass lesson for the Lick of the Week by Christos Fragias. It’s called “Walking the Notes”


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