May 7, 2011

Dueling Banjos Scene from Deliverance --- The Story Behind the Story

I have no idea if this story is true or not, but love this scene from the movie:

The guy playing the guitar is Ronnie Cox from Portales New Mexico.

Autism? Asperger's syndrome? Genius primary, social interaction secondary? Serendipity?........or maybe we just haven't figured it out yet.

Plumbing the depths of the human mind and spirit is an eternal frontier.  Watch the young mans face not his fingers.

This is an excerpt of the film "Deliverance". When the filming group of the movie stopped at a gas station somewhere, one of the actors started to play a tune of the film on his guitar.

When a boy who was watching (an autistic) heard the music, he started to respond with notes from his banjo. They started an incredible dialogue of instruments and the autistic boy expressed himself in probably the only form in which he was prepared to communicate.

This is how this remarkable scene, that was included in the movie, was developed and filmed. Look at the expression of the boy. At first, he seems uncertain and waiting but as the intensity of the music progressed, his lost expression was gone and an expression of pleasure and happiness was recovered; thanks to this guitar player who happened to pass by.

After this magic moment passed, the boy returned into himself leaving this part of his externalized beauty in the film. This truly was a memorable part of the movie.

This scene was not a part of the script until the camera man happened to catch it on film...The family was well paid; and beat poverty by accident.

Watch the little boy especially at the end...


  1. sorry to burst your bubble, but it was one of the crew playing the banjo. His arms come out from behind him. look at 2:07, the hands are different, the forearms bigger, and you can see where the next persons arms start

  2. Nice story but completely untrue. Myths spread like wildfire in the internet age.

  3. Kids name was Billy Redden

  4. Hi Todd,

    In regard to the dueling banjos clip, I agree with you that it is a very effective scene. The kid playing the banjo player was an actor named Billy Redden. He was in make up to make his appearance more striking. He has no mental disabilities and was not playing the banjo himself. According to a web site I read, a professional player sat behind him and had his right arm forward and did the picking while Billy Redden's left hand moved over the chords. The music used on the soundtrack was provided by set musicians. The part about, the scene not being part of the script and being accidentally captured by the camera man on film and the family escaping poverty by being well paid, is pure fiction. But, as my father used to say, "never let the truth stand in the way of a good story!"

    I continue to enjoy your web site. Sometimes it (almost) makes me miss the Midwest, then I remember the weather!

    Best Regards,


  5. Use in Deliverance

    In Deliverance, a scene depicts Billy Redden playing it opposite Ronny Cox, who joins him on guitar. Redden plays "Lonnie" — a mentally challenged inbred, but extremely gifted, banjo player. A body double actually played the banjo.[2] Two young musicians, Ron Brentano and Mike Russo, had originally been signed to play their adaptation for the movie, but instead it was performed by the others.[3]

    "Dueling Banjos" was arranged and performed for the movie by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell and was included on the soundtrack album.[4] When he was not acknowledged as the composer by the filmmakers Smith sued and eventually won, receiving songwriting credit as well as royalties.

  6. Who cares, if it is good to you that is all that counts, I liked the effects of the two players, thee rest do not belong in that flick. ron b

  7. Neither Billy Redden nor the boy behind him played the banjo in the scene. The song was pre-recorded by Eric Weisberg on banjo and Steve Madel on gutar. Billy moved the fingers on his right hand to simulate plucking the banjo... the kind behind moved his left hand over the stings to give the illusion of fretting the chords...NEITHER WAS ACTUALLY PLAYING.
    The scene was rehearsed and rehearsed and it took us several days to shoot it... anyone who believes this is just serendipity needs to check out the number of camera angles and the fact that everyone is in the wardrobe they wore in the movie...

  8. Thanks for clarifying the story! That had to be a fascinating movie to be part of making. Thanks for your insight!!

    Todd Swank