Joe Smith (musician)
Known throughout his childhood as "Toots", Smith originally started as a drummer but was convinced by Ethel Waters that he was far better as a trumpet player. It has been said that when he reached New York in 1920 he already had a fully formed style, which achieved "the vocalised sound, the blues spirit and the swing which makes for convincing jazz performance".
In 1921, Smith joined the Black Swan Jazz Masters in Chicago, directed at the time by Fletcher Henderson who described Smith as "the most soulful trumpet I ever had". He also worked with the Jazz Hounds, the Broadway Syncopators, and finally with McKinney's Cotton Pickers throughout the 1920s. He became famous from his work accompanying Bessie Smith, recording over 30 records. Some of the other artists he worked with include Billy Paige, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, and Allie Ross.
Smith was born on the June 28, 1902 in Ripley, Ohio. He came from a family of musicians—his father, Luke Smith, Sr. was a bandleader, and six of his brothers also played the trumpet or trombone: Luke, Jr. (1895–1936), Stanley (born 1890), Doonie, Charles (born 1908), Carpathia (1912–2000), and Russell (1890–1966). Three of the brothers went on to play professionally, Russell as first trumpet for Fletcher Henderson.
Smith married Madeline Adele Belt on January 12, 1928, in Manhattan, New York.
Smith died of complications from tuberculosis on December 2, 1937 in an asylum in Central Islip, New York.
Notes and references
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