|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Telephone Blues||Harmonica Ace|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Sometimes You Win When You Lose||Blowing The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Love Life||Harmonica Ace|
|Champion Jack Dupree||Overhead Blues||Me And My Mule|
|Little Johnny Taylor||Somewhere Down The Line||The Galaxy Years|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||The Blues Is My Roots||West Coast Down Home Harmonica|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||I Don't Know||Blowing The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Astatic Stomp||Now You Can Talk About Me|
|Sunnyland Slim||Got To Get To My Baby||Slim's got His Thing Goin' On|
|Dave Alexander||Highway 59||Oakland Blues|
|Long Gone Miles||Gotta Find My Baby||Juke Joint Blues|
|Long Gone Miles||Hello Josephine||Juke Joint Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Blues For Reverend King||Of The Blues...|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Times Won't Be Hard Always||Blowing The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Blues In The Dark||Harmonica Ace|
|Muddy Waters||You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had||Authorized Bootleg|
|Muddy Waters||Just To Be With You||The Lost Tapes|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||West Helena Woman||Tribute to Little Walter|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Going Down Slow||Tribute to Little Walter|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Too Late||Tribute to Little Walter|
|Otis Spann||Down On Sarah Street||Down To Earth|
|Big Mama Thornton||One Black Rat||The Way It Is|
|Big Joe Turner||Night Time is the Right Time||Turns On The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Early One Monday Morning||Harmonica Ace|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Blowing The Blues||Blowing The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Miss O'Malley's Rally||Blowing The Blues|
|George 'Harmonica' Smith||Mississippi River Blues||The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions|
George 'Harmonica' Smith was one of the most gifted contemporaries of Little Walter and Big Walter yet has received a fraction of their recognition. He was a powerful, inventive and swinging harmonica player and a superb singer. Likely his recognition would be higher if he wasn't based in L.A. He cut his first records for modern in the mid-50's which achieved some success. For the rest of the 50's and 60's he cut a slew of fine singles for small West Coast labels that didn't do much to raise his profile. By the late 60's he had a cut a couple of LP's and was quite active on record in the early and late 70's, keeping relatively quiet in the middle part of that decade. Smith was fairly active as a session player and today we hear him backing his occasional employer Muddy Waters as well as Champion Jack Dupree, Little Johnny Taylor, Big Mama Thornton, Sunnyland Slim, Luke Miles, Otis Spann and others. Smith had a profound influence on the style of younger west coast harmonica players like Johnny Dyer, Kim Wilson, James Harmon and in particular, Rod Piazza and William Clarke.
Allen George Smith was born on April 22nd , 1924 in Helena, Arkansas to Jessie and George Senior. His guitar and harmonica playing mother was something of a role model in his musical upbringing, helping him master the finer points of the harmonica. Around the age of twelve he was hoboing throughout he delta. During this period he was a semi-professional musician playing picnics and fish fries. With the help of a local musician, Smith continued to work in and out of the music business whilst holding down a Job as a projectionist in the town of Itta Bena. He found a way to utilize the amplifier and speaker taken from, presumably, a disused projector and, to amplify the sound of his harmonica. This makes him one of the pioneers in the amplified harmonica.
At the age of twenty-five Smith moved to Chicago. He got a job working with David and Louis Myers and then hooked up with Otis Rush. Smith and Little Walter became really close during this period. Both played chromatic as their chosen and preferred instrument. Unlike Walter, it was proving difficult for Smith to make a break through. Following the departure of Little Walter from Muddy Waters' band, Smith was to fill the vacated harmonica chair when fill-in Henry Strong was stabbed to death by a jealous girlfriend. For whatever reason, his stint with Waters was short-lived and he never recorded with him. Before leaving Chicago, Smith was involved in a Otis Spann session recorded at the end of 1954 which resulted in "It Must Have Been The Devil b/w Five Spot." Smith plays on the former holding his own among heavyweights B.B. King, Jody Williams, Willie Dixon and Earl Phillips.
In 1954, he was offered a permanent job at the Orchid Room in Kansas City where, early in 1955, Joe Bihari of Modern Records (on a scouting trip) heard Smith, and signed him to Modern. These recording sessions were released under the name Little George Smith, and included classics like "Telephone Blues" and "Blues in the Dark." The relative success of these first recordings, resulted in Smith touring with many of the leading Rhythm & Blues acts of the time. While on the tour, he recorded with Champion Jack Dupree in November of 1955 in Cincinnati, producing "Sharp Harp" and "Overhead Blues", the latter we spin on today's program. Smith's excellent Modern sides are collected on Harmonica Ace: The Modern Masters on the Ace label. This disc is aptly described by note-writer Ray Topping as "a lasting memorial to one of the last great harp players of the postwar blues scene."
After touring in support of his first records the tour closed out on the West Coast and the Bihari brothers took Smith into the studio again, this time to work with saxophonist and arranger Maxwell Davis. Smith settled in Los Angeles for the rest of his life. In the late '50s he recorded for J&M, Lapel, Melker, and Caddy under the names Harmonica King or Little Walter Junior. Smith also worked with Big Mama Thornton on many shows. In 1960, Smith met producer Nat McCoy who owned the Sotoplay and Carolyn labels, and with whom he recorded ten singles under the name of George Allen. The bulk of these sides have been collected on Blowin' The Blues which has been issued on P-Vine, Official and the El Segundo labels. There are some real gems on this collection unfortunately sound quality is not always the best and some of the personnel is unknown. When James Cotton left Muddy Water’s band in 1966 he asked Smith to join him and they worked together for a while, recording for Spivey Records under the title The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band. Several years back Geffen/Chess issued Authorized Bootleg featuring Smith with Muddy recorded November 4-6, 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Smith was captured with the band again in 1971 live at Washington and Oregon University and posthumously issued as The Lost Tapes on Blind Pig. Smith moved to Chicago to play with Waters. As before, it didn’t last, and Smith went back to Los Angeles. But he stayed friends with Muddy, and when Little Walter died two years later, Muddy’s band backed Smith on his highly regarded Tribute to Little Walter album on World Pacific.
Smith also appeared on the World Pacific album by Sunnyland Slim, Slim's Got His Thing Goin' On and the compilation Oakland Blues backing David Alexander and L.C. Robinson. In 1969, Bob Thiele produced an album of Smith on Bluesway, ..Of the Blues, and later made use of Smith as a sideman for his Blues Times label, including sets with T-Bone Walker and Harmonica Slim. Smith also recorded on the two albums Otis Spann recorded for Bluesway. Smith met the young Rod Piazza in the late 60's, and they launched the Southside Blues Band, which toured with Big Mama Thorton . In 1970 British producer Mike Vernon met the band, signed them to a European tour, and changed their name to Bacon Fat. They recorded a couple of albums for Vernon. All this material has been reissued on the 2-CD set George Smith & Bacon Fat: The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions. In 1969 Luke “Long Gone” Miles and Smith recorded a batch of great songs for Kent, the bulk of which went unissued. The same year he backed Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and was involved in the Super Black Blues jam album with T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann and Big Joe Turner. In 1970 he cut the album No Time For Jive and the same year he backed Big Joe Turner on the Kent album Turns On The Blues. In 1971 Smith cut the album Arkansas Trap. In 1972 he appeared on Eddie Taylor's I Feel So Bad and backed Big Mama Thornton again in 1975 on the album Jail. Through the 70's and early 80's he remained active working on record with Jimmy Witherspoon, Phillip Walker and others.
Around 1977, Smith became friends with William Clarke and they began working together. Their working relationship and friendship continued until Smith died on October 2, 1983. Of Smith, Clarke said: "He had a technique on the chromatic harp where he would play two notes at once, but one octave apart. He would get an organ-type sound by doing this. George really knew how to make his notes count by not playing too much and taking his time by letting the music unfold easily. He could also swing like crazy and was a first-class entertainer. …I have never heard George play a song the same way twice. He was very creative and played directly from his heart. He admired all great musicians but had his own sound and style. He was a true original. Mr. Smith would always give 100-percent on-stage whether or not there were 1 or 1,000 people listening. This was his performing style, always." His last studio album was Boogie'n With George produced by protege Rod Piazza.
|Read Liner Notes|
Tom Townsley describes Smith's technique in the following manner: "He often approached his soIos by using his tongue-blocked octave technique to imitate hom section riffs (as opposed to copying the single notes of a soloist). This gave his playing incredible power. He also knew how to coax a variety of tonal shadings and subtle pitch variations out of a single note by combining bends and microphone manipulation. He built suspense by phrasing his attack just behind the beat. As a result, his tunes swung relentlessly."