Posted by themusicsover on June 12, 2013
June 25, 1922 – June 12, 2013
Johnny Smith was a jazz guitarist who was considered one of the premiere cool jazz players of his day. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Smith and his family eventually settled in Maine where the boy began learning to play the guitar by practicing at local pawn shops. By the time he was 13, he was teaching other neighborhood kids to play. While still in high school, Smith joined a local hillbilly band, Uncle Lem and the Mountain Boys who took him on the road to play various fairs and dances throughout Maine. Since he was earning $4.00 a night, Smith promptly quit high school to pursue his career. By the time he turned 18, he picked up an interest in jazz so he quit the Mountain Boys and joined a jazz trio called the Airport Boys. After serving in the US Army as part of the Military Band, Smith put his music career in high gear. With a reputation for being one of the era’s most versatile guitarists – he could just as easily play classical as he could hillbilly and jazz – Smith found plenty of work as a session player. In 1952, he released what would become his most acclaimed album, Moonlight In Vermont, which also featured Stan Getz on saxophone. The single of the same name was a big hit as well. As a songwriter, Smith is perhaps best known for 1954’s “Walk Don’t Run” which became hits for both Chet Atkins and the Ventures. In 1958, he retired from the music business grind and moved to Colorado to raise his daughter since his wife had recently passed away. He owned a music store and taught guitar lessons there for many years. Johnny Smith was 90 when he passed away on June 12, 2013.
Thanks to Harold Lepidus at Bob Dylan Examiner for the assist.
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