Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Smith studied music theory as a teenager and learned ukulele as a child before taking up guitar. He spent his early career in territory bands, playing in groups such as Eddie Johnson’s Crackerjacks, the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra, the Sunset Royal Orchestra, the Brown Skin Models, and Andy Kirk’s 12 Clouds Of Joy. His composition “Floyd’s Guitar Blues”, recorded with Andy Kirk’s orchestra in March 1939, has been claimed as the first hit record to feature a blues solo on electric guitar.
Smith enlisted during World War II and was stationed in Britain as a sargeant. He also met and played with Django Reinhardt in Paris. Following the war, he rejoined Andy Kirk’s band before forming his own small ensembles. He played with Wild Bill Davis in the 1950s, and Bill Doggett in the early 1960s, and also recorded occasionally with drummer Chris Columbo’s bands during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He later settled in Indianapolis and formed his own jazz trio.
In the 1970s, Smith moved into writing songs and record production, working with Dakar/Brunswick Records in Chicago, for which he recorded a few singles. He produced two albums with R&B star, Loleatta Holloway for Aware Records of Atlanta, as well as two (one completed, but unissued when the label folded) with John Edwards, who later became lead singer of the Detroit Spinners. He produced two Top 10 R&B hits on Aware with Edwards (“Careful Man”, No. 8 in 1974) and Holloway (“Cry To Me”, No. 10 in 1975). In the late 1970s, he produced tracks on several albums with Loleatta Holloway for Gold Mine/Salsoul Records. He managed the former gospel singer and later married her.
He died in Indianapolis, Indiana in March 1982 at the age of 65.
I Want ‘Cha To Let Me Come Home