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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reno and Smiley - Banjo Special (1962)

Reno and Smiley were a musical duo composed of two highly talented musicians, Don Reno and Red Smiley. They were one of the greatest duos in country (now bluegrass) music of the 1950s and early '60s.

Later in 1951, Don and Red left Magnus to play with Toby Stroud in Wheeling, West Virginia on radio station WWVA (AM). Soon after this, Don and Red reformed a band that Don had started some years before: The Tennessee Cut-Ups.

In 1952, Reno and Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups made their first recordings for King Records. Among this session was one of the band's most famous gospel songs, "I'm Using My Bible for a Roadmap" which was written by Don Reno in 1950. The sales of this record reportedly saved King Records from bankruptcy. Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups continued recording for King Records but did no live performances until the mid '50s which is now known to most Reno and Smiley fans as the beginning of their "Glory Years" which lasted until they disbanded in 1964.

At this time, Don began traveling with Benny Martin and Red formed a band called the Bluegrass Cut-Ups which continued to perform on a television program that Don and Red did together for many years. When Red retired in the late 1960's, Jim Eanes acquired the band renaming it "The Shenandoah Cutups". It wasn't until 1970 or '71 that Don and Red began performing together again, and that time was short-lived as Red died in 1972 at the age of 46 due to complications with diabetes. Don continued to perform with his sons Don Wayne and Dale along with Bill Harrell until his death in 1984 at the age of 58. In 1992, Don Reno and Red Smiley were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

Banjo Special is wonderful instrumental bluegrass album that showcases Don Reno's banjo picking. This is certainly one of the best bluegrass instrumental albums never re-issued on CD. I have been unable to find out the names of the other performers on the recording, but the fiddle player does a fine job as well. The tunes are so smoothly done that it sounds like they aren't even working hard. I place this album among my top bluegrass favorites.

Track List:
  1. Follow The Leader
  2. World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
  3. Bully Of The Town
  4. Buffalo Gal
  5. Double Eagle
  6. Speedin' John Hardy
  7. Carry Me Back To Old Virginia
  8. Flop Eared Mule
  9. Washington And Lee Swing
  10. Birth Of The Blues
  11. Lee's March
  12. Goodbye Liza Jane
Download Link: Enjoy the Music!
Recordings by Reno & Smiley (including videos and books):

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