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Don Reno

Virtually unrivalled among his contemporaries for his mastery of the five-string banjo, Don Reno teamed with Red Smiley to create some of the finest bluegrass recordings of the postwar era -- a superb tenor vocalist and songwriter, Reno also proved crucial to the emergence of the guitar as one of bluegrass' lead instruments, and ranks alongside the likes of Bill Monroe among the genre's true pioneers. Reno was born in Spartanburg, SC, on February 21, 1926, and raised primarily in rural North Carolina; at age five he built his first banjo, and as a teen backed the Morris Brothers and Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. He also recorded with Woody Guthrie and was asked to join Monroe's Blue Grass Boys before serving in the military from 1944 to 1946. Upon returning from duty Reno fronted a local South Carolina band before replacing Earl Scruggs in the Blue Grass Boys, where like his predecessor he was key in popularizing the three-finger roll technique of banjo playing.

Reno left Monroe in 1949 to join Tommy Magness and His Tennessee Buddies; among his bandmates was guitarist Smiley, and while cutting a 1951 session with Magness for King Records subsidiary Federal, label owner Syd Nathan was so impressed by Reno and Smiley's interplay that he soon arranged for the duo to record under their own names. A marathon 16-song studio date the following January launched their career as headliners, with the Reno-penned hit "I'm Using My Bible for a Road Map" proving so successful it reportedly pulled King Records back from the brink of bankruptcy. Despite the popularity of their records, the duo proved unable to keep together their touring band, the Tennessee Cut-Ups, so in between sessions for King they worked independently, which allowed Reno to reunite with Smith; together they recorded the classic 1955 instrumental "Feuding Banjos," which was later retitled "Dueling Banjos" for its unauthorized use in the 1972 film Deliverance.

In May of 1955 Reno and Smiley organized the definitive lineup of the Tennessee Cut-Ups, including fiddler Mack Magaha and bassist John Palmer; a regular gig at Richmond, VA, station WRVA's Old Dominion Barn Dance finally afforded the group the opportunity to continue full-time, and over the next nine years they recorded a series of influential sides for King including "I Know You're Married," "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die," and "Please Remember That I Love You." At the peak of their popularity, the duo also hosted Top of the Morning, a hit daily television show which ran for some seven years. However, in 1964 diabetes forced Smiley to retire from the road, and in late 1966 Reno began a new partnership with singer/multi-instrumentalist Bill Harrell which continued for a decade, a period which coincided with a resurgence in public interest in bluegrass as a result of a growing festival circuit. A much briefer liaison with fiddler Benny Martin also launched the country chart hit "A Soldier's Prayer in Vietnam."

During the early '70s Reno and Harrell recorded a series of LPs for labels including Monument, Dot, and CMH; on occasion Smiley returned to the fold as well, making his final live appearance just months before his death on January 2, 1972. After Reno and Harrell went their separate ways in autumn 1976, the former settled in Lynchburg, VA, where he began performing alongside sons Don, Wayne, Dale, and Ronnie; in 1979, he also again re-teamed with Smith for the album Arthur Smith and Don Reno Feudin' Again. Reno died October 16, 1984; his sons later recorded as the Reno Brothers. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: 50 Years Of Dueling Banjos

1. Dueling Banjos

2. Sitting On Top Of The World

3. Dear Old Dixie

4. Ballad Of Jed Clampett

5. Foggy Mountain Breakdown

6. Kentucky Waltz

7. Fast As You

8. Good Times Are Past & Gone

9. Earls's Breakdown

10. Battling Banjos Polka

11. Sunny Side Of The Mountain

12. Train 45

13. Blue Is The Color Of Lonesome

14. Shuckin' The Corn

15. Ballad Of Curtis Loew

16. Yakety Sax

17. Foggy Mountain Special

18. Bury Me Beneath The Willow

19. Bringin' In The Georgia Mail

20. Feudin' Banjos (Live)

x

Track List: Can't You Hear Me Callin' Bluegrass: 80 Years Of American Music

Disc 1

1. Soldier's Joy

2. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues

3. White House Blues

4. Bill Mason

5. Cannon Ball Blues

6. D Blues

7. Keep On The Sunny Side

9. I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes

10. Great Speckle Bird

11. Orange Blossom Special

12. Ida Red

13. Pretty Polly

14. Lonesome Old River Blues

15. Mule Skinner Blues

16. Wreck On The Highway

17. The Drunkard's Grave

18. Rocky Road Blues

19. Searching For A Soldier's Grave

20. Blue Moon Of Kentucky

21. Dust On The Bible

22. I Heard My Mother Weeping

23. Will You Be Loving Another Man?

24. Blue Grass Breakdown

25. It's Mighty Dark To Travel

26. Molly And Tenbrooks (The Race Horse Song)

Disc 2

1. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

2. Foggy Mountain Breakdown

3. Poor Ellen Smith

4. The Drunkard's Hell

5. The Lonesome River

7. The Fields Have Turned Brown

8. The White Dove

10. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

11. I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home

12. Uncle Penn

14. When The Angels Rolled The Stone Away

15. Earl's Breakdown

16. Don't Get Above Your Raising

17. Are You Missing Me?

18. Why Did You Wander?

19. Flint Hill Special

20. I'll Go Stepping Too

21. Love And Wealth

22. 20 / 20 Vision

23. My Lord Keeps A Record

24. I Love The Hymns They Sang At Mother's Grave

25. Reunion In Heaven

Disc 3

3. Seven Year Blues

4. Get Down On Your Knees And Pray

5. Somebody Touched Me

6. Feudin' Banjos

8. Knoxville Girl

9. Once More

10. Twin Banjo Special

11. Gosh, I Miss You All The Time

12. You Don't Know My Mind

13. Rank Stranger

15. Foggy Mountain Top

18. She Left Me Standing On The Mountain

19. Sunny Side Of The Mountain

20. Just Joshing

24. Rosalee

25. No More Goodbyes

26. The Ballad Of Jed Clampett

28. Rocky Top

29. Mountain Dew

30. Dueling Banjos

Disc 4

2. Black Mountain Rag (Soldier's Joy) (Live)

3. Pretty Boy Floyd

4. Bristol Steam Convention Blues

5. Farther Along

7. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

8. Cora Is Gone

10. Uncle Pen

11. Till The End Of The World Rolls Round

12. A Vision Of Mother

14. If I Could Be There

15. So Long, So Wrong

17. The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn

18. Little Maggie

19. Carrie Brown

20. Tortured, Tangled Hearts

21. Walls Of Time

22. Is The Grass Any Bluer

23. Daniel Prayed

24. Twelve Gates To The City

25. Soldier's Joy

x

Track List: Sound Traditions: The Best of Mountain Bluegrass

1. Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone

2. The Preacher & The Bear

3. Whoa, Mule Whoa

4. Hot Corn-Cold Corn

5. Lost Indian

6. Sand Mountain Blues

7. Hang Out The Front Door Key

8. Coney Isle

9. Over The Hill To The Poor House

10. Old Joe Clark

11. Little Brown Jug

12. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar

13. Uncle Eph's Got The Coon

14. I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home

15. Cotton Eyed Joe

16. Johnson's Old Gray Mule

17. Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down

18. Weary Lonesome Blues

19. Little Birdie

20. Chiken Reel

21. The Coo Coo Bird

22. Ground Hog

23. When It's Time For The Whippoorwill To Sing

24. Mama Likes Bluegrass Music

25. Corn Bread

x

Track List: That Good Ol' Country: Power Picks - 25 Traditional Classics

1. Rovin' Gambler

2. The Picture On The Wall

3. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar

4. Sparkling Blue Eyes

5. Philadelphia Lawyer

6. The Georgia Mail

7. Keep On The Sunnyside

8. Ragged But I'm Right

9. Carolina Sunshine Girl

10. Tupelo County Jail

11. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

12. Sand Mountain Blues

13. Left My Gal In The Mountains

14. There'll Come A Time

15. I Only Want A Buddy

16. Grandfather Clock

18. Frankie And Johnnie

19. Fallen Leaf

20. Wildwood Flower

21. How Many Biscuits Can You Eat

22. Budded Roses

23. Trouble In Mind

24. My Farm In Louisiana

25. Sourwood Mountain

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Myself and my sister grew up in Lynchburg VA and saw the reno brothers and their dad play at many shows that friends of ours produced and we had a blue grass park near Lynchburg the Reno family are really good and down to earth people
Report as inappropriate
Doubt it bro
Report as inappropriate
He is my great uncle :)

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