The Late Johnny Smith

Guitarist Johnny Smith died on June 11, 2013, just two weeks shy of his 91st birthday. He was a legendary jazz performer, working with all the greats but especially Stan Getz who also passed recently .Their version of Moonlight in Vermont is a true classic. He also worked with saxophonist Charlie Parker. Although extremely successful in New York in the 50’s, he hated living there and moved to Colorado Springs in the late 50’s, only returning to gig or record. He said, “You couldn’t be a nice human being” living there.

What most don’t know is he wrote the classic, Walk Don’t Run in 1954, recording it in jazz time. It would be recorder by the Ventures¬† and was a huge hit in 1960 and again in 1964 It became a must-play song for every guitar player since. It was even recorded by Chet Atkins.

I took an independent study in jazz guitar theory at CU’s music school in 76-77. I still have several of Johnny’s hand written charts from then. Back then, guitar was a dirty word at the music school, so we had to meet in the basement next to the boiler room where it was usually 100 or so, but we took it all in stride.

RIP, Johnny!