Approximately 500 songs and instrumentals (some co-written with Red Smiley), making Reno the most prolific composer in bluegrass music history:

  • “Banjo Riff”
  • “Charlotte Breakdown”
  • “Country Boy Rock & Roll”
  • “Drifting With the Tide”
  • “Get Behind Me Satan”
  • “I Know You’re Married”
  • “I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap”
  • “Let’s Live for Tonight
  • “Maybe You Will Change Your Mind”
  • “No Longer a Sweetheart of Mine”
  • “Talk of the Town”
  • “There’s Another Baby”
  • “Trail of Sorrow”
  • “Unwanted Love”

Came to Fame With

Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1951-1965

Performed With

  • The Morris Brothers, Spartanburg, SC, 1940
  • Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks, 1940-1943, 1952-1955
  • Carolina Hillbillies, Spartanburg, SC, 1943-1944, 1948
  • Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, 1948-1949
  • Tommy Magness and the Tennessee Buddies, Roanoke, VA, 1949-1951
  • Toby Stroud and the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, Wheeling, WV, 1951
  • Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1951-1965
  • Don Reno, Benny Martin and the Tennessee Cut-ups, 1965-1966
  • Don Reno, Bill Harrell and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1966-1977
  • Don Reno and the Tennessee Cut-ups, 1977-1984

Early Influences

  • Delmore Brothers
  • Tommy Magness
  • Blue Sky Boys
  • Shelton Brothers
  • J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers
  • Snuffy Jenkins

Led the Way

  • Pre-empted by Earl Scruggs as the first prominent three-finger banjo player during Reno’s World War II service, Don went on to create a distinctively different banjo style, featuring single-string and jazzy chordal phrases adapted from the guitar.
  • First prominent flat-picking lead guitarist in bluegrass.
  • With Arthur Smith, recorded top-ten hit “Guitar Boogie” on the guitar in the mid ‘40s and the original release of “Feuding Banjos” in 1955.
  • Reno and Harrell were the first country act to perform at the United Nations in New York City.
  • Bluegrass Hall of Fame, 1992

By the Way

  • Could play banjo or guitar in any key without a capo.
  • Mentored 14-year-old Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland in a twin electric guitar combo, 1948.
  • None of the members of the Tennessee Cut-Ups were from Tennessee.
  • In a hurry to cover another version on the market in 1955, Don recorded “Home Sweet Home” by himself – overdubbing three vocal parts, guitar, banjo, bass and snare drum.
  • Released the single “Jimmy Caught the Dickens” as “Chick and his Hot Rods,” out of concern that Reno and Smiley fans wouldn’t appreciate the rockabilly arrangement.
  • Not the most astute businessman, Don included reference to his disastrous used-car enterprise in “Your Mama Didn’t Raise No Idiot,” 1966.
  • Sons Ronnie, Dale, and Don Wayne all went on to prominence in bluegrass and country music after performing with the Tennessee Cut-Ups.

From the Archives

“Most of the time we’d leave here and we didn’t even know what songs we was gonna [record]. Don would write most of ‘em on the way to Cincinnati.”
John Palmer, quoted by Gary Reid in the liner notes to Don Reno & Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1951-1959, King Records, 1993.
“Anything that I ever had in my head, it seemed like I could put on the neck of an instrument.”
“The Don Reno Story, Part 1: The Early Years,” interview with Bill Vernon, Muleskinner News, June, 1973.
“Instrumentals sold almost as good as songs did for us. When Syd [Nathan, King Records] would release a song on a single, he’d always put an instrumental on the back… a lot of DJs used the instrumentals as theme songs.”
“The Don Reno Story, Part 4: the Glory Years,” interview with Bill Vernon, Muleskinner News, December, 1973.