Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos – What Does It Mean?

Unfortunately, for some people, the only cultural background they have for places they don’t know is through Hollywood films and T.V. This is true for those who have never been to the southern Appalachians. An example is the phrase paddle faster; I hear banjos – what does it mean?

Paddle faster; I hear banjos can be regarded as a meme people say to each other when traveling or hiking through a remote area. A phrase not exactly like this but very similar in context originated from the 1972 Hollywood film “Deliverance.” People say this phrase is a joke that the locals are coming, and they need to walk fast to avoid an attack.

In that movie, some city slickers were canoeing through the southern Appalachians while locals hounded them. One of the locals, a boy, was playing the banjo. So, this phrase warns travelers to be wary of traveling through areas that they are not familiar with.

Read on to learn more about the paddle faster; I hear banjos meaning, where it originated, and its background.

Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos Overview

paddle faster i hear banjos

This phrase, “paddle faster, I hear banjos,” has already acquired the status of a meme since people are now saying it to each other whenever they are traveling or hiking through places that people do not frequently visit.

The construction of this phrase is very similar, if not precisely the same, to the words said by one of the characters in the Hollywood movie “Deliverance” while the locals were hounding them.

In this paddle faster, I hear banjos movie, where several city slickers canoe through the southern Appalachians’ rivers. They have encountered the locals, of whom one is a boy who plays the banjo. The city slickers didn’t fare well with the cultural norms of the locals.

So the locals hounded them while they were traveling through the countryside. This meme serves as a warning to those who hike or travel in remote areas.

Short History of the Phrase Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos

Reference to the Hit Movie “Deliverance”

This view is collaborated by the author and B.A. History major Mary Krupka of Wayne State University. She believes that this phrase is a reference to the hit movie “Deliverance.” This movie depicted several men on a canoeing trip.

Something happened between them and the locals, which led to Krupka calling the locals “a bunch of rednecks” who menaced the city slickers. One of the locals has a mentally challenged son who plays the banjo. The banjo music also became the music theme of the movie.

Deliverance Starred Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight

The movie “Deliverance” starred Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, who enjoyed the height of their popularities during those days. Voight is still alive today, but Reynolds is no longer with us.

The movie’s basic story is about a weekend canoe trip of four city slickers that went haywire when they clashed with how the locals do things.

Boorman Stated That the Movie Was Based on Actual Events

The Director, John Boorman, said the movie’s story was based on actual events. However, some critics have contested this because the film misrepresented and distorted the real nature of the place depicted in the movie and the norms of the people who lived there.

What Do the Critics Say?

For instance, if you know the river and the place where most of the events in the movie took place, you will understand that no hillbillies or rednecks are lurking in the woods in those areas. Critics say that movies like this are “distorted windows” that portray a world that does not exist.

Some critics even say that the movie “Deliverance” was the biggest offender in the misrepresentation of the south. The movie’s portrayal of the sexual deviancy and backwardness of those living in North Georgia is far from the truth.

Stereotyped Mountain Men and Backwood Rednecks

You will see proof of this later in this article. This movie gave birth to the phrase “paddle faster; I hear banjos.” It set the standard for stereotyping mountain men and backwood rednecks, which, while untrue, still sticks in mind today on those who don’t know any better.

Did the Deliverance Movie Portray Appalachian Folks Accurately?

Not Violent-prone or Sexual Deviants

The mayor of Clayton, Jordan Green, knows that those who live in Rabun County are not violent-prone or sexual deviants just as the movie “Deliverance” portrayed. He commented on the negative portrayal by this movie of the people in his region.

Not Ignorant, Poor, or Backward

Jordan said while the movie put them in a negative light, most of his people just allowed the film to roll off their backs. Then he explained that the county where he is in charge is not ignorant, poor, or backward, as portrayed in the movie.

For instance, one of the biggest international cities in the U.S., Metro Atlanta, is just one hour and a half away from his county. There is Georgia University at Dahlonega. And there is Lake Burton, an exclusive village with an exclusive golf course and costly lake houses.

Jordan also commented on the stereotypes that most people in the U.S. have about his people in the southern Appalachians. He revealed that there is a small African American community in Clayton.

They get along fine with the predominantly white community of his place. To give credence to Jordan’s statement, Jordan’s girlfriend, Ashleigh, said that she didn’t even know racism was a thing all her life.

Does Not Reflect the Real Southern Appalachians

This phrase does not reflect what is real in the southern Appalachians where the movie “Deliverance” was made. Part of the Appalachian Trail passes through some parts of Rabun County, where Jordan Green is mayor.

Again, what does the phrase Paddle faster, I hear banjos mean? The phrase Paddle faster, I hear banjos came from the 1972 movie Deliverance. This phrase was used in the film as a warning against the attacks from the locals.

What Does Billy “Banjo Boy” Redden Say About the Paddle Faster Phrase?

paddle faster i hear banjos meaning

Not Based on Anything Truthful

And the best person that can debunk what’s portrayed in that movie is Billy Redden, the mentally challenged boy who played banjo in the film. Billy is now a grown man and reveals that the phrase “paddle faster, I hear banjos” is not based on anything truthful.

The “Deliverance “Banjo Boy in real life is Billy Redden, now 46 years old. He is presently working in Walmart’s outlet in Clayton.

And to tell you the truth, he does not know how to play the banjo. That’s just the way Hollywood does its thing. But in this video, you would think he does:

Foster Boy for Offensive Stereotypes

Because of “Deliverance,” Billy Redden became the poster boy for offensive stereotypes clamped on anything related to the southern Appalachians. He is a soft-spoken man, working at Walmart for around 12 years.

Most Remembered as a Boy with Sleepy Eyes

In “Deliverance,” he was most remembered as a boy with sleepy eyes. These same distinctive stunted eyes were still on Billy’s head. So, there’s no mistaking it; he’s the same person in that movie.

It is for his eyes that the producers of the movie cast him. He was attending a grade five school class when movie scouts spotted him; the rest is history.

Billy spent one week with the actors of the movie doing his paddle faster; I heard banjos song. He enjoyed working with the cast and crew.

Billy remembers that when he was finished doing his part, Ned Beatty, one of the main actors, would say, “Give’m a couple of bucks.” That phrase got into the film during the final shoot. How much did he make doing the movie? 500 bucks.

Billy Played Again as a Banjo Boy in the Movie “Big Fish”

While Billy only played a small part in “Deliverance,” it changed the course of his life. After the movie was released, Billy attracted the attention of another director, the reputable Tim Burton.

Burton again cast Billy in the movie “Big Fish” as a banjo boy. He made more money in this film than in the first one, but it still didn’t amount much. During his life, some people came to Rabun County asking for the little banjo boy.

They would ask him to show them around. Some of these people will give him as much as $400 after the tour. As he grew old, he realized the film’s effect on his native place.

Deliverance Did Not Do Any Good to the Reputation of the People and Place

He saw the stereotypes that the movie stamped on them and realized that this did not do any good to the reputation of their place and its people.

Billy lamented that the movie had ruined their place. He believed that the people around here were good, referring to those living in southern Appalachia.

Here’s a song entitled “Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos,” which was influenced by the “Deliverance” movie:

What Can the Clayton Country Offer to Tourists?

paddle faster i hear banjos meme

Clayton County is not a backward place full of sexual deviants prone to violence. If you are touring the site, rivers, and parks, and you utter the phrase “paddle faster, I hear banjos,” then your misinformation borders on ignorance.

This place offers many things to those who love hiking and canoeing. Here are some things you can find and enjoy in this place:

  • Clayton Walmart – this Walmart outlet is just a 21-minute drive from Dick’s Creek Gap. You can go there for your supplies.
  • Henry’s Country Buffet – this is an all-you-can-eat food joint where you can go after hiking or canoeing, and you need to recharge your batteries.
  • Budget hotels – there are several hotels for those traveling on limited funds.
  • Wander North Georgia – this is an outdoor store located downtown in a beautiful district. Hiking gears are sold in this store.

The lesson from this phrase is that: don’t just believe what you saw in the movies. To get to know the place, go and talk to the people there. Experience the place yourself, not virtually, inside a movie theater or through your video disc player.

Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps, the revelation you have learned about this topic has sparked some questions in your mind. Just keep on reading, and you may get your answers from the ones listed below:

What Is the Meaning of “Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos”?

This phrase originated in the movie “Deliverance.” To put it straight and simple, this is a derogatory phrase used by city dwellers who don’t know anything about the remote places they visit.

They use it to refer to what they regard as backward hillbillies, rednecks, or mountain men that could do them harm if they ever step into their territory.

Is the Meaning of Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos True?

There is no truth to this phrase because it was just how the movie portrayed the people living in the southern Appalachians. Unfortunately, they became stereotyped by this movie, and the phrase “paddle faster, I hear banjos” have a lot to do with that.

The actual residents of the place cast in the movie “Deliverance” say that they are not violent and backward hillbillies as portrayed by the film.

In Closing: What Does Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjos Mean?

This phrase has acquired the status of a meme that people say to one another as they travel through a remote area. A character spoke a similar phrase in the 1972 movie “Deliverance.” That’s why many people believe this film originated this meme.

In that film, the main characters were hounded by the locals of the southern Appalachians. One of the locals was playing the banjo.

This meme is meant to be a joke and a warning when hiking in unfamiliar places. But the people who live in this place deny that they are like the people portrayed in that movie.

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