Dueling Banjos/"Deliverance" Martin D-28
In 1968, before I had opened my store, I was known as the “go to” repair and restoration person for top-level guitars here in New York. I had been doing this for about five years, with a few different locations for my shop, all of them here in lower Manhattan. At the time this photo was taken I had my repair business set up in the location of Danny Armstrong’s store on La Guardia Place. Some of you may have seen a prior story in these pages about Danny, and his generosity in giving me space to run my own business in his shop when the place where I had been unexpectedly became unavailable. Danny and I had already done some projects together, including my finishing up for him the design of and hand-building the prototypes of his now-famous Plexiglas guitars and basses. While I was at that location, with my own following of musicians, an old friend came by with a pre-war Martin D-28 that was in need of major help. Among other things, the top was collapsing as the result of mistreatment in years past, combined with amateur work having been done on it forever ago. The guitar was owned by Steve Mandell, a great local bluegrass guitar player and session musician who, along with Eric Weissberg, another local session musician and terrific banjo player, had made a recording of an old Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith and Don Reno tune called “Feudin’ Banjos”. Steve and Eric renamed it “Dueling Banjos, it was used as the theme music for the huge hit movie “Deliverance”, they got a Grammy for it, and the rest is history. In the accompanying photo I’ve got the guitar on my workbench with its back off, so that I could restore and re-inforce the area under the top where the majority of the pressure from the strings is transferred to via the bridge. A complex and ticklish job, but I got it done, got the back in position and re-installed properly, and the guitar went on to serve Steve well until he passed away in 2018. In the photo, which was taken by a good friend named Lenny Schechter and given to me in mounted form, which I still have, I’m using a chisel which I also still have. Good tools, like good friends, are forever. The shirt I was wearing has its own story and it happened to be what I had on that day, was not put on specially for the photo. In those days of my (ahem) youth, I had a lot darker and lot more hair than I have today and was also into motorcycles, something I no longer have anything do with. The only place in New York to get parts for the bike I had then, a 1954 BSA 650, was in deepest Brooklyn, at a shop that had been there since the 1920s. In the 50s they had been Harley dealers and had also carried, to go with the times, some Western-style kinda movie-cowboy shirts. There were still a few left in stock in the late 60s and I was on that one like a dog on a bone. Thing is, along with that chisel, I still have the shirt, except it seems to have shrunk up some around its lower middle during the last fifty-three years.