Reno, Don


  • From Spartanburg, South Carolina.
  • One of the innovators and early masters of the bluegrass (three-finger style) banjo.
  • Like Earl Scruggs, learned to play the three-finger style from Snuffy Jenkins.
  • Began pro career at age 12, playing banjo with the Morris Brothers.
  • Mid-1940’s, was playing banjo with Arthur Smith and the Carolina Cracker Jacks when Bill Monroe invited him to join his band. Reno declined in order to serve in the Army, and Monroe hired Earl Scruggs instead.
  • 1948, discharged from the Army and replaced Scruggs in Monroe’s band. He developed his own style of playing banjo, so as not to be compared directly with Earl.
  • 1949, started his own band The Tennessee Cutups—the group he headed up the rest of his life. He was joined in this band by guitarist Red Smiley and they played together throughout the 1950’s and 60’s.
  • 1964, teamed up with guitarist Bill Harrell to form Reno and Harrell. They (backed by their band The Tennessee Cutups) recorded several albums together.
  • Was the banjo player on the original recording of “Dueling Banjos”. He and the composer of the song Arthur Smith recorded it under the original name “Feudin’ Banjos” using a tenor banjo played by Arthur and a 5-string played by Don. The tune was later re-named “Duelin’ Banjos” by The Dillards and subsequently recorded by Eric Weissburg and Steve Mandel for the hit movie “Deliverance.”
  • Wrote a total of 457 songs (although most were never recorded.) Most well-known songs: “I Know You’re Married, But I Love You Still” and “I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap.” Instrumentals: “Dixie Breakdown” and “Chokin’ the Strings.”
  • 1984, died at the age of 57.
  • 1992, he was elected to the IBMA’s Hall of Fame along with Red Smiley, his singing partner for many years.