Don Reno

Don Reno

Don Reno, a master of the five-string banjo and the one credited for the emergence of the guitar, was a superior master of the tenor vocalist and songwriters of his time. He was born in South Carolina in February of 1926. He grew up in North Carolina and as a kid, built his own banjos. When he was in his teens, he recorded with the Morris Brothers and Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. He recorded with Woody Guthrie and was asked to become part of Monroe’s the Blue Grass Boys, but he denied in order to serve in World War II.  {}

In 1948, Reno replaced Earl Skruggs in the Bluegrass Boys. He was a little irritated that people referred to his banjo picking as “Skruggs style”. He always believed that if he would not have gone off to war, “Skruggs style” would have been “Reno style”. He played for two years with the Bluegrass Boys until forming Reno and Smiley and the Tennessee Cutups. The band lasted for nearly fourteen years and realeased pick hits like, “I’m Using My Bible for a Road Map”, “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could”, and ‘Don;t Let Your Sweet Love Die”. His son, Ronnie Reno, played mandolin for the group that quickly became a regular on RFD TV.

In 1964, Red Smiley retired from the Tennessee Cutups, so Reno joined his guitarist, Bill Harrell and formed Reno and Harrell. Red Smiley joined Reno and Harrell on occasion until his death in 1972. In 1976, Harrell and Reno parted ways and Reno settled in Lynchburg, VA. He played alongside his sons, Don, Wayne, Dale and Ronnie until his death in 1984. {}

Don Reno’s legacy was known for his wicked Banjo and creating room for a lead guitar. In all the bands Reno played in, he brought his unique banjo style and his high tenor voice. His legacy is carried on through his sons, The Reno Brothers.

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