How to Play Smokey & the Bandit on the Banjo

By Charlotte Johnson ; Updated September 15, 2017

The 1977 movie "Smokey and the Bandit" featured popular movie stars Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. Another actor in the movie is Jerry Reed, who also was an accomplished country music writer, singer and guitar player. Reed wrote the movie's theme song, "Eastbound and Down." This song can be played on the banjo by using a standard roll with the right hand while chording the instrument with the left hand. With some time and practice, you can entertain yourself and others with this catchy tune.

Finger Rolls

Pluck the third banjo string with your thumb. Then pluck the second string with your index finger.

Pluck the first string with your third finger. Pluck the third string again with your thumb. These four notes make up the first two beats of any given measure (each note is an eighth note worth half of a beat).

Pluck the second string with your index finger, followed by the first string with your third finger.

Pluck the third string with your thumb, followed by the second string with your index finger. Steps 3 and 4 make up the third and fourth beats of the measure.

Repeat this pattern with your right hand throughout the song.

Chorus Chord Progression

Play a G chord for the lyrics, "Eastbound and down." Play G by leaving all the strings open (don't hold down any strings with your left hand).

Play an A chord for "loaded up and truckin'." Play an A by "barring" the second fret. To "bar" a chord, you use your index finger to press down all the strings in a particular fret.

Play a C chord for "Ah, we gonna do what they say can't be." Play C by barring the fifth fret.

Play a D chord for "done/ We've got a." Play D by barring the seventh fret.

Play a G chord for "long way to go and a," followed by an A chord on "short time to get there." Play a C chord for "I'm eastbound, just," a D chord for "watch old bandit," and a G chord on "run." This completes the chorus section.

Verse Chord Progression

Play an E chord for "Keep your foot hard on the pedal, son." Play an E by pressing the first string/second fret with your third finger, the third string/first fret with your index finger, and the fourth string/second fret with your middle finger.

Play a C chord for "never mind them brakes/ Let it," followed by an A chord on "all hang out 'cause."

Play a B chord for "we've got a run to." Play B by barring the fourth fret.

Play an E chord on "make/ The boys are thirsty in Atlanta and there's." Play a C chord for "beer in Texarcana/ and we'll." Play an A chord for "bring it back no matter what it," followed by a B chord on "takes." This completes the verse section.

Repeat the patterns for the following verses and choruses.

Tip

The roll described is a forward roll. There are other rolls that you can learn later on as you progress. Practice the roll slowly and increase your speed as you gain dexterity and muscle memory. Also listen to the song as you practice and try to play along as you grow in proficiency.

About the Author

Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.