|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
|Established in 1996
| Thursday, February 29, 2024
|Eric Weissberg, 'Dueling Banjos' musician, dies at 80
The soundtrack to Deliverance was certified gold, for sales of more than 500,000 copies.
by Bill Friskics-Warren
NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Eric Weissberg, a gifted multi-instrumentalist whose melodic banjo work on the 1973 hit single Dueling Banjos helped bring bluegrass music into the cultural mainstream, died Sunday in a nursing home near Detroit. He was 80.
Juliet Weissberg, his wife of 34 years, said the cause was complications of Alzheimers disease.
Though the theme songs to the film Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and the CBS sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, both recorded by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, preceded Dueling Banjos in exposing wide audiences to bluegrass, neither made it to the pop Top 40. Dueling Banjos, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1972 movie Deliverance, fared far better, rising to No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart.
The soundtrack to Deliverance was also certified gold, for sales of more than 500,000 copies.
But Weissberg who also played fiddle, mandolin and guitar produced much more than a one-hit wonder. More than a decade before Dueling Banjos, he had distinguished himself as a member of two popular folk groups, the Greenbriar Boys and the Tarriers, and as an in-demand session musician in New York.
As a session player he appeared on Judy Collins Fifth Album, contributing guitar to her 1965 version of Pack Up Your Sorrows. He played banjo on John Denvers 1971 Top 10 pop hit, Take Me Home, Country Roads. His fretwork was heard on albums like Bob Dylans Blood on the Tracks (1974), Billy Joels Piano Man (1973) and the Talking Heads Little Creatures (1985). He collaborated with jazz musicians like Bob James and Herbie Mann as well.
Dueling Banjos did not, as the songs title suggests, involve two banjoists pitting their skills against each other. Instead it showcased Weissbergs three-finger Earl Scruggs-style banjo in a sprightly call-and-response more of a dance than a fight with the flat-picked acoustic guitar of his collaborator, Steve Mandell.
The song was originally recorded in 1955 as Feudin Banjos in a version that featured the songs composer, Arthur Smith (known for Guitar Boogie"), and Don Reno, both of them on banjo.
When it appeared on the soundtrack for Deliverance, a movie based on the James Dickey novel of the same name, it was mistakenly copyrighted to Weissberg.
A lawsuit was settled in Smiths favor. Weissberg always maintained that Warner Bros. had credited him as the songs composer without his knowledge or consent.
An inspiration to banjoists who followed in his wake, especially those of a progressive bent like Tony Trischka and Béla Fleck, Weissberg contributed to a trio of influential early banjo albums: American Banjo Scruggs Style (Folkways, 1957), Folk Banjo Styles (Elektra, 1961) and New Dimensions in Banjo and Bluegrass (Elektra, 1963).
Here were some early seedings of progressive banjo playing scattered in my fertile mind, Trischka said of the New Dimensions album in a 2006 edition of Banjo Newsletter. These tunes set a whole new standard for what could be done with the banjo. All that, plus a generous dose of the early melodic style.
All but two tracks from New Dimensions, recorded with guitarist Clarence White and banjoist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Marshall Brickman, were reissued on the soundtrack to Deliverance. The Beastie Boys later sampled a snippet of one of the albums tracks, Shuckin the Corn, on 5-Piece Chicken Dinner, from their 1989 touchstone, Pauls Boutique.
Eric Weissberg was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 16, 1939. His father Will, was a publicity photographer for the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan who loved listening to jazz. His mother, Cecile (Glasberg) Weissberg, was a liquor buyer for the Waldorf Astoria and later for the entire Hilton hotel chain. She often played selections from the Fireside Book of Folk Songs on the piano when Eric was young.
Weissberg grew up in Knickerbocker Village, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and attended elementary school at the Little Red School House, a progressive private school in Greenwich Village, where he began taking violin lessons at the age of 10.
By then Eric was already spending summers at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, New York, near Woodstock, which was run by the father and uncle of Toshi Aline Ohta, the future wife of Pete Seeger, who would give banjo lessons to Eric when he was 8 or 9.
Soon after Seegers folk group the Weavers formed, Weissberg attended hootenannies in the presence of other luminaries of the era, like Woody Guthrie.
Weissberg attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957 before leaving to study at Juilliard. On Sundays afternoons he joined singalongs with the likes of John Herald and Bob Yellin, in Washington Square Park, where public singing was permitted from only 12 to 6 p.m.
After his success with Dueling Banjos, which won a Grammy for best country instrumental performance in 1973, Weissberg formed a group called Deliverance, which toured widely and recorded for Warner Bros.
He continued to do session work, and later played with Tom Paxton and Art Garfunkel, among others, but he became less active as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s. One notable exception was his appearance, in 2009, at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Gala Concert at Riverside Church in Manhattan, along with, among others, the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus.
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1985, Weissberg is survived by his son, Will, and two grandchildren.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
March 24, 2020
After the fire, a Chinatown museum sifts through what survived
Egypt disinfects landmark museum as virus fears grow
10 binge-worthy art podcasts in the age of coronavirus
Movie poster for The Invisible Man sold for $182,400 at Heritage Auctions
French fashion houses to produce coronavirus masks
Hindman's March 19 couture auction surpasses expectations
Larry Bell's sculptural works from the 1970s to the present day on view at Hauser & Wirth
Too close to call! Three-way tie for EY People's Choice Award at Sculpture by the Sea, Cottlesoe
Rare German Disney toys take a toothy bite out of Morphy's $1.6M auction
2020's strangest memorabilia auction now open for bids
Lafayette Anticipations presents Rachel Rose's first major exhibition in Paris
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen announces the launch of The Digital Museum
The Rijksmuseum is open online
Jeremy Marre, documentarian of world music, is dead at 76
Galerie Emanuel Layr presents an exhibition of works by Tillman Kaiser
Damiani to publish 'Lost Venice' by Sarah Hadley
Jessie Willcox Smith original cover art for '"Good Housekeeping'" to be auctioned
MOSTYN presents a new body of work by artist Athena Papadopoulos
Museo Picasso Málaga: Look, think and create with #Picassoencasa
All YIVO Institute for Jewish Research classes now free
Parrish Art Museum offers fun interactive online art programs for children and families
Woody Allen memoir released by new publisher after protests
Danny Ray Thompson, 72, dies; Mainstay of Sun Ra's otherworldly band
Eric Weissberg, 'Dueling Banjos' musician, dies at 80
7 Tips for Overcoming Creative Block
The Easiest approach to convert PDF to Word
Top 5 Reasons to Marry a Ukrainian Bride
For Your Next Fishing Adventure, Choose Finval Boats
Why traders prefer forex trading?
SMOK Nord 2 review - compatible with both Nord 2 Coil and SMOK Nord Coil
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.