Even if you don’t think you know the work of Eric Weissberg – you do. You know it because of an iconic movie and the score that he helped to create.
Weissberg was a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist skilled across many stringed instruments – particularly guitar and banjo – when in 1972 he took a piece of music credited to Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith” and recut it for the movie Deliverance. His Duelling Banjos was the hit of the soundtrack album – even being released as a single. And it was the showcase for his career; a trick-bag he never could leave behind and never really wanted to.
I got hooked on Weissberg’s playing after getting hooked on the movie Deliverance and its music.
And then couldn’t believe my luck when, in the early 00s, I saw an Art Garfunkel concert and who should feature as Artie’s guitar man and bandleader but one Eric Weissberg. He even performed a blistering rendition of his famous Duelling Banjos as part of a guitar and banjo solo showcase during that gig.
What a player. A consummate musician.
I’ve always been the type to read album liners and check recording credits and search out the work of the sessions guys involved on a favourite song or album – that’s just me. Well, it’s not just me, there are many of us out there. And the internet has cut some of the work we have to do in half. But I remember being at the concert and thinking how important it was for us to remain curious, for us to inquire – to seek these workers out. (At that same gig the drummer was Tommy Igoe, a master clinician who had been one of the pit members for the Broadway run of The Lion King. I mean – fuck!)
Anyway, Weissberg’s playing is sublime. There he is adding steel guitar on Creatures of Love by Talking Heads. He’s on Billy Joel’s Piano Man album; adds a guitar track to one of my all-time favourite records – Blood On The Tracks. He’s all through my record collection. Even on the Cabbage Patch Dreams record I inherited in a batch of kids’ LPs I bought for my son when he was young and now can’t seem to shake.
He was everywhere. He’s likely all over your record collection too.
If you’re ever owned anything by Judy Collins, John Denver or Loudon Wainwright then the chances are high.
And that’s just a scratch of the surface.
He sure left his mark.
And if he was just a session guy called in to record that one banjo rag – not also a touring musician, producer, arranger and regular soundtrack composer and contributor – then he would have made and left his mark with that one indelible piece alone.
R.I.P. Eric Weissberg
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