Eric Weissberg, a gifted multi-instrumentalist whose melodic banjo work on the 1973 hit solitary “Dueling Banjos” helped convey bluegrass music into the cultural mainstream, died on Sunday in a nursing home in close proximity to Detroit. He was 80.
Juliet Weissberg, his spouse of 34 decades, mentioned the lead to was troubles of Alzheimer’s sickness.
Even though the topic songs to the film “Bonnie & Clyde” (1967) and the CBS sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” both equally recorded by Flatt and Scruggs, preceded “Dueling Banjos” in exposing large audiences to bluegrass, neither manufactured it to the pop Top 40. “Dueling Banjos,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1972 motion picture “Deliverance,” fared significantly greater, increasing to No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart.
The soundtrack to “Deliverance” was also qualified gold, for gross sales of far more than 500,000 copies.
But Mr. Weissberg — who also performed fiddle, mandolin and guitar — developed much a lot more than a a person-strike speculate. Additional than a ten years just before “Dueling Banjos,” he had distinguished himself as a member of two well-liked folks teams, the Greenbriar Boys and the Tarriers, and as an in-need session musician in New York.
As a session player he appeared on Judy Collins’s “Fifth Album,” contributing guitar to her 1965 version of “Pack Up Your Sorrows.” He performed banjo on John Denver’s 1971 Top 10 pop hit, “Take Me House, Place Streets.” His fretwork was heard on albums like Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” (1974), Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” (1973) and the Talking Heads’ “Little Creatures” (1985). He collaborated with jazz musicians like Bob James and Herbie Mann as effectively.
“Dueling Banjos” did not, as the song’s title implies, involve two banjoists pitting their techniques against each other. As an alternative it showcased Mr. Weissberg’s a few-finger Earl Scruggs-model banjo in a sprightly phone-and-response — extra of a dance than a struggle — with the flat-picked acoustic guitar of his collaborator, Steve Mandell.
The tune was originally recorded in 1955 as “Feudin’ Banjos” in a variation that featured the song’s composer, Arthur Smith (identified for “Guitar Boogie”), and Don Reno, both of them on banjo.
When it appeared on the soundtrack for “Deliverance,” a movie centered on the James Dickey novel of the identical title, it was mistakenly copyrighted to Mr. Weissberg.
A lawsuit was settled in Mr. Smith’s favor. Mr. Weissberg generally taken care of that Warner Bros. had credited him as the song’s composer devoid of his awareness or consent.
An inspiration to banjoists who followed in his wake, in particular people of a progressive bent like Tony Trischka and Béla Fleck, Mr. 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 ended up some early seedings of progressive banjo enjoying scattered in my fertile brain,” Mr. Trischka reported of the “New Dimensions” album in a 2006 version of Banjo Newsletter. “These tunes established a entire new common for what could be accomplished with the banjo. All that, moreover a generous dose of the early melodic type.”
All but two tracks from “New Proportions,” recorded with the guitarist Clarence White and the banjoist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Marshall Brickman, were being reissued on the soundtrack to “Deliverance.” The Beastie Boys later on sampled a snippet of one particular of the album’s tracks, “Shuckin’ the Corn,” on “5-Piece Rooster Dinner,” from their 1989 touchstone, “Paul’s 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 beloved listening to jazz. His mom, Cecile (Glasberg) Weissberg, was a liquor customer for the Waldorf Astoria and later on for the complete Hilton lodge chain. She frequently played choices from the “Fireside Guide of People Songs” on the piano when Eric was younger.
Mr. Weissberg grew up in Knickerbocker Village, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and attended elementary university at the Very little Pink College Property, a progressive non-public school in Greenwich Village, the place he began getting violin classes at the age of 10.
By then Eric was currently paying out summers at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, N.Y., near Woodstock, which was run by the father and uncle of Toshi Aline Ohta, the upcoming wife of Pete Seeger, who would give banjo lessons to Eric when he was 8 or 9.
Before long after Mr. Seeger’s people group the Weavers shaped, Mr. Weissberg attended hootenannies in the existence of other luminaries of the era, like Woody Guthrie.
Mr. Weissberg attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957 just before leaving to research at Juilliard. On Sundays afternoons he joined singalongs with the likes of John Herald and Bob Yellin, in Washington Sq. Park, in which community singing was permitted from only 12 to 6 p.m.
Just after his good results with “Dueling Banjos,” which won a Grammy for finest place instrumental functionality in 1973, Mr. Weissberg formed a team known as Deliverance, which toured commonly and recorded for Warner Bros.
He ongoing to do session function, and later played with Tom Paxton and Art Garfunkel, between others, but he grew to become significantly less lively as the 1990s gave way to the 2000s. 1 noteworthy exception was his physical appearance, in 2009, at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Gala Live performance at Riverside Church in Manhattan, together with, between others, the Aaron Copland College of Music at Queens Higher education orchestra and refrain.
Mr. Weissberg married Juliet Savage in 1985. In addition to her, he is survived by his son, Will, and two grandchildren.