Some pretty great banjo songs


The Ballad of Jed Clampet has to be my pick for number one. It comes from the sixties' TV show the Beverly Hillbillies. In three weeks the 'Hillbillies' became the number one show in America and the song, being the opening theme, was stuck in the mind of every man, women and child who watched it. Why I'd even give up doing my homework just to watch the show (a bad thing in retrospect).

If I had to bet, I would bet that the ballad of Jed Clampet is the most well known banjo song there is. If you happen to be unfamiliar with the old show, play this montage put together by 1lenny.
It was a classic.

The song was composed by Paul Henning the creator

and produceer of the show. He saw Flatt and Scruggs playing in the Los Angeles area and asked if they would record the song for the new show. To sing the ballad he chose Jerry Scoggins. For Flatt and Scruggs this event would prove very fortuitous as five years later Warren Beatty would choose a composition of Earl's for the car chase scenes in his new movie.
"The music is so neat ... when they're being chased... " my mother would say after seeing Bonnie and Clyde . But the shotgun in the face scene traumatized me, and so it was hard to appreciate and enjoy the music when I saw it.
Foggy Mountain Breakdown had been written by Earl Scruggs nearly twenty years earlier than the film it was to grace. This composition of Earl's was very similiar to Bill Monroes Blue Grass Breakdown ... click on the songs and listen. Foggy Mountain Breakdown did become the classic and is a goal of everyone taking up the banjo. Due to its speed however, it's not a beginner's song. I remember Steve Martin playing it on the Gong Show while wearing "the arrow through the head" accessory.
The last great banjo song —and I call it great because the number two song in the country in February of 1973was Dueling Banjos. It couldn't quite beat out Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly—that had to give Gimbel and Fox a scare. It debuted in 1972 in the film Deliverance, a manly outdoor adventure movie, to put it mildly. Even though it was a new song for all of America, it actually originated from a song called Fuedin' Banjos by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song Dueling Banjos is actually played by a guitar and a banjo in the movie...I don't know if the average person picked up on that inconsistancy, but they sure picked up on another item in the movie. Mention you play banjo to some people and they immediately hum the opening notes of the song and give you the 'eyebrows'. Here is the scene from the movie where the character Drew and his new found buddy play the song. play move clip
Scene from Deliverance
Source file: http://www.destgulch.com/movies/
deliver/deliv01.jpg

Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel recorded it for the movie soundtrack. This release used by Warner Brothers never gave Smith credit for writing and he had to file a lawsuit in order to collect royalties. If you ever get a chance to see this movie or read the book by James Dickey, do. We all need a thrill and a chill once in a while.