Bennie Smith

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Bennie Smith (October 5 1933, St. Louis - September 10 2006, St. Louis) was a St. Louis blues guitarist, considered to be one of the city's patriarchs of electric blues [1].

His sound was emblematic of a St. Louis blues music that he helped define in over half a century practicing his trade. His contributions to the genre in that city, from the early 1950s and almost until the day of his death, included mentor, performer, and recording artist.

Due to his significant contribution to blues music in St. Louis, in October 2003 he received a proclamation from mayor Francis G. Slay marking October 5, 2003 as 'Bennie Smith Day' in that city. The board of alderman similarly honored Mr. Smith, recognizing him as the "Dean of St. Louis Electric Guitarists".[2] During the 2006 'Big Muddy Blues Festival' in St. Louis, Mayor Slay honored Bennie once again on September 2 of that year, declaring that day also be known as 'Bennie Smith Day' in St. Louis.

Career

Smith worked as a session man on many recordings over the years, and has three original albums to his name: 'The Urban Soul of Bennie Smith' (Blues Highway - 1993), 'Shook Up' (Fedora Records - 2001)), and 'The Bennie Smith All Star Session' (2006). In a notable 1958 session, Smith was invited to contribute on what would be Tina Turner's first recording, 'Boxtop'. The song featured Ike Turner with 'Little Ann' on backing vocals, and Smith on guitar. In addition, he has played with such guitar players as Hubert Sumlin, Gatemouth Brown, B.B. King and Grant Green.

Discography

Albums

  • "The Urban Soul of Bennie Smith," 1993 (Blues Highway Music)
  • "Shook Up," 2001 (Fedora Records)
  • "Bennie Smith All-Star Sessions," 2006

In addition to his featured albums, Smith provided lead and rhythm guitar on a number of released singles and albums. These included:

Sessions - Singles

  • "Boxtop", Ike Turner, (with Tina Turner (a.k.a. Little Ann) on vocals) 1958 (Tune Town)
  • "Mistreated", Clayton Love with the Roosevelt Marks Orchestra, 1958-59 (Bobbin). It is likely that Smith recorded other songs with the Roosevelt Marks Orchestra during the period from 1958 to 1961.
  • "Condition Your Heart", Little Herbert and the Arabians, 1961
  • "Shook Up Over You", Jimmy "Soul" Clark, 1963

Sessions - Albums

  • "Mean Disposition", Big Bad Smitty, 1991 (Adelphi/Genes. This album is included in the Library of Congress) - Mr Smith shared the lead guitar role with Hubert Sumlin.
  • "Cold Blood", Big Bad Smitty, 1997 (HMG)

Style

Smith named Gatemouth Brown and Matt 'Guitar' Murphy as his two greatest influences on the guitar.

Death

Bennie suffered a heart attack at his home on September 9 2006. He was taken to Barnes Jewish Hospital where efforts to resuscitate him failed. He was kept on life support until Sunday, September 10 2006, at which time life support was removed. He passed away shortly after.

References