Arthur Smith, a country musician known for the hit “Guitar Boogie” and for “Feuding Banjos,” a bluegrass tune that became “Dueling Banjos” in the film “Deliverance,” died on Thursday at his home in Charlotte, N.C. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his son Clay.
A nimble guitarist and banjo-player, Mr. Smith was a virtuoso with an approachable manner. Inspired by Broadway show tunes, the gospel tradition and jazz artists like Django Reinhardt as well as by country music, he became popular playing on Southern radio stations as a teenager.
“Guitar Boogie,” an instrumental with a deft solo released in the late 1940s, was his first major hit, recorded when he was 24 and serving in the Navy. The song, a precursor to the rock ’n’ roll of the coming decades, has been covered by musicians like Les Paul, Chuck Berry and Alvino Rey.
Mr. Smith recorded the call-and-response banjo song “Feuding Banjos” with Don Reno in 1955. Another version of it appeared as a deceptively amiable musical duel in “Deliverance,” the 1972 film starring Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds.
Mr. Smith was not credited as the writer and filed suit against Warner Brothers after a version of the song reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart in 1973. The studio offered a $15,000 settlement, Clay Smith said in an interview, but Mr. Smith wanted to go to trial. The judge ruled in his favor.
“He recouped all past royalties and all future royalties, and the credit was changed” to show he had written the song, Clay Smith said. He added that the song has since been used in many commercials advertising, among other things, the Mini Cooper and Mobil and Mitsubishi products.
Arthur Smith was born on April 1, 1921, in Clinton, S.C. His father, a mill worker, taught music and played in a band. Arthur grew up in Kershaw, S.C., and was playing cornet with his father’s band by the time he was 11. By 14 he had a radio show in Kershaw, and by 15 he had made his first record, for RCA Victor.
He turned down two college football scholarships and an appointment to the Naval Academy to focus on his radio work. He moved to Charlotte in the early 1940s to work for a CBS affiliate radio station, WBT, then performed with the Navy band during World War II.
From 1951 to 1982 he hosted “The Arthur Smith Show,” a syndicated television country variety show that featured guests including Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. At its peak it was seen in 87 markets. He also wrote or collaborated on hundreds of songs, many recorded in his Charlotte studio, where James Brown recorded the 1965 funk hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
Mr. Smith married Dorothy Byars in 1941. She and his son survive him, as does another son, Reggie; a daughter, Connie Brown; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
More than a decade after “Guitar Boogie” was released, a nervous young guitarist bungled the solo during his first performance with a Liverpool group called the Quarry Men.
“When the moment came in the performance, I got sticky fingers,” Paul McCartney recalled in a documentary series whose title, “The Beatles Anthology,” bore the Quarry Men’s subsequent name.
He added, “That’s why George was brought in.”
Correction: April 10, 2014
An obituary on Wednesday about the guitarist Arthur Smith, whose song “Feuding Banjos” was used, under the name “Dueling Banjos,” in the movie “Deliverance,” misspelled the given name of one of that movie’s stars. He is Jon Voight, not John.
A version of this article appears in print on April 9, 2014, on page B19 of the New York edition with the headline: Arthur Smith, 93; Wrote ‘Dueling Banjos’
should be what the TImes call a permalink for you to read the Obit. IN the past the links wouldvanish after a while and I started to pate the Obituary so that whnr the links died my readers could stil read the storybut know where it came fr om. Now copying the data is not allowed and the TIes calls their lins :peralinks: so I hope that no and in the future yo can read the story.
TRIVIA: You may know the hit instrumental song “Dueling Banjos” from the soundtrack of the 1973 “Deliverance.” But actually the original was original was the Bluegrass song called “Feudin’ Banjos written by Arthur Smith in 1955 — yes I said 1955 — and was used in the film without the composers’ permission. Smith had to sue to get his credit.