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‘Dueling Banjos’ Composer Arthur Smith Dead at 93

Arthur Smith
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Arthur Smith, the multi-instrumentalist and composer perhaps best known for ‘Dueling Banjos,’ has passed away at the age of 93.

The Charlotte Observer reports that Smith died at his home in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday (April 3).

Born in 1921 in Clinton, S.C., Smith grew up in Kershaw, where his father, a mill worker, also led a brass band. Smith played trumpet in that group as a child, and also mastered mandolin, fiddle and guitar, among other instruments. He played in a Dixieland group with his brothers, and began to cut records when he was 15.

At the age of 24, Smith released ‘Guitar Boogie,’ which is widely considered one of the earliest rock and roll records. He also began a career in radio that led to a syndicated TV shows, ‘The Arthur Smith Show,’ which featured a wide range of guests, including personal friends like Billy Graham and Johnny Cash.

In 1955 Smith recorded a song he’d written titled ‘Feuding Banjos,’ which became a popular bluegrass tune. It attained a permanent place in popular culture when it was used in the classic 1972 film ‘Deliverance’ under the title ‘Dueling Banjos.’ The appearance was not licensed, and Smith sued Warner Bros., reportedly receiving a substantial settlement.

In later years Smith turned his attention to a wide variety of business interests, including a recording studio, as well as boating and sports fishing.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons, Clay and Reggie; daughter, Connie Brown, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

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