A Tribute to Deliverance’s Banjo Player
John Boorman’s film Deliverance left its mark on pop culture in 1972 and the ‘Squeal like a pig’ jokes still get chuckles today. But since fictional hillbilly rape really isn’t funny, we’ll instead focus on the inbred, mentally retarded banjo player kid, Lonnie, who participates in one of the most pleasing musical numbers in cinematic history. This:
Billy Redden, found during a casting call in Clayton, Georgia, was picked to play the part of Lonnie due to his unique look. He was 16 at the time. He didn’t appear in another movie until 2003, when Tim Burton cast him as the banjo player in Big Fish. Here’s the banjo-pickin’ boy, Billy Redden, all grown up:
Facts about the Dueling Banjos sequence of Deliverance from IMDB:
- It was the first scene they shot.
- Redden liked actor Ronny Cox, but disliked Ned Beatty. At the end of the scene, the script called for Billy to harden his expression toward Cox’s character, but he was unable to fake dislike for Cox. To solve the problem, they got Beatty to step toward Billy at the close of the shot. As Beatty approached, Billy hardened his expression and looked away.
- Despite the title of the piece, “Dueling Banjos” actually features a banjo and a guitar.
- Unlike Cox with his guitar, Redden did not know how to play banjo. Another boy, who was a skilled banjo-player, played the chords with his arm reaching around at Redden’s side.
- According to director John Boorman, the jig done by the filling station attendant during the “Dueling Banjos” sequence was unscripted and spontaneous on the part of the actor.
- Redden is not inbred or mentally retarded.
In terms of Deliverance memorabilia, there isn’t much, unfortunately, but a bunch of T-Shirts that say “Paddle faster, I hear banjo music!”
How to play Dueling Banjos:
Others who play the banjo (likely because of Deliverance):
Steve Martin and the Muppets:
These Lego guys:
vs. Jimi Hendrix:
Want more Dueling Banjos? Go to YouTube.com and search: