George "Harmonica" Smith

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George "Harmonica" Smith
Smith in 1980
Smith in 1980
Background information
Birth nameAllen George Smith
Also known asGeorge "Harmonica" Smith, Little George Smith, Harmonica King, Little Walter Junior, George Allen
Born(1924-04-22)April 22, 1924
West Helena, Arkansas, United States
DiedOctober 2, 1983(1983-10-02) (aged 59)
Los Angeles, California U.S.
GenresBlues, electric blues
Instrument(s)Harmonica, vocals
Years active1950s–1980s

George "Harmonica" Smith (born Allen George Smith, April 22, 1924 – October 2, 1983)[1] was an American electric blues harmonica player.[2] Apart from his solo recordings, Smith is best known for his work backing both Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton.

Life and career[edit]

Born in West Helena, Arkansas, United States, but brought up in Cairo, Illinois,[3] Smith's mother taught him how to play the harmonica from the age of 4.[1][4] In his teenage years he performed in a country band with Early Woods and Curtis Gould.[1][4] He also joined Mississippi gospel group, the Jackson Jubilee Singers.[1] From the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Smith travelled throughout the south and played harmonica on the streets.[4] In 1941, Smith moved to Rock Island, Illinois and joined a group with drummer Francis Clay.[1] Around this time he was working at the Dixie theatre and began to use an amplifier he'd salvaged from an old projector to amplify his harmonica playing on the streets.[1]

He moved to Chicago and began playing professionally in 1951.[3] He joined the Muddy Waters' band in 1954 and played intermittently with that group.[3] During this period he also worked with Otis Rush.[4] In the mid 1950s he recorded several singles for the RPM Modern label under the name Little George Smith.[1] In 1955, Smith went on tour with Little Willie John and Champion Jack Dupree, recording several songs with latter while in Cincinnati.[1] Smith relocated to Los Angeles, where the tour ended, later that year.[1][4] In the late 1950s, Smith recorded singles under various aliases, such as Harmonica King and Little Walter Junior, for labels J&M, Lapel, Melker, and Caddy.[1] In 1960 he recorded 10 singles under the alias George Allen for the Sotoplay and Carolyn labels.[1] In 1966, Smith worked with Muddy Waters while Waters was visiting the West Coast and recorded for the Spivey label. Smith played with Bacon Fat, a blues group, before working with Big Mama Thornton in the 1970s.[3] He played harmonica on her live album Jail in 1975.[3]

Smith spent most of his life living on the West Coast,[3] where he influenced musicians such as William Clarke and Rod Piazza.[4] Smith died in 1983 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 59.[1]

Selected discography[edit]

With Otis Spann

With the Super Black Blues Band: T-Bone Walker, Otis Spann and Joe Turner


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Michael Erlewine. "George "Harmonica" Smith | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  2. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 167. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Komara, Edward (2004-07-01). Komara, Edward; Lee, Peter (eds.). The Blues Encyclopedia. doi:10.4324/9780203490938. ISBN 9780203490938.
  5. ^ "George "Harmonica" Smith* - ...Of The Blues". Discogs. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  6. ^ "George Smith (4) - No Time For Jive". Discogs. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  7. ^ "George "Harmonica" Smith* - Arkansas Trap". Discogs. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  8. ^ "George Smith (4) - Blowin' The Blues". Discogs. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  9. ^ "George "Harmonica" Smith discography". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  10. ^ "George "Harmonica" Smith* - Boogie'n With George". Discogs. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  11. ^ Larry Hoffman. "Harmonica Ace: The Modern Masters - George "Harmonica" Smith | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  12. ^ Live recordings from 1983 at Chuy's in Tempe, Arizona.
  13. ^ "Teardrops Are Falling - George "Harmonica" Smith | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  14. ^ "George "Harmonica" Smith - Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 May 2019.

External links[edit]