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Johnny "Hammond" Smith

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Johnny "Hammond" Smith
Smith in the 1970s
Background information
Birth nameJohn Robert Smith
Also known asJohnny Hammond
Born(1933-12-16)December 16, 1933
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJune 4, 1997(1997-06-04) (aged 63)
Victorville, California, U.S.

John Robert "Johnny Hammond" Smith (December 16, 1933 – June 4, 1997) was an American soul jazz and hard bop organist. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, he was a renowned player of the Hammond B-3 organ so earning "Hammond" as a nickname,[1] which also avoided his being confused with jazz guitarist Johnny Smith though this could lead to him being confused with Jimmy Smith (musician), another Hammond great.



Smith played with Paul Williams and Chris Columbo before forming his own group. His bands featured singers Etta Jones, Byrdie Green, saxophonists Houston Person, Earl Edwards, guitarists Eddie McFadden, Floyd Smith, James Clark, vibist Freddie McCoy. His career took off as he was serving as accompanist to singer Nancy Wilson. One of his last accomplishments also included Nancy Wilson. He wrote the song "Quiet Fire" for her Nancy Now! release in 1988.

After a 10-year spell on Prestige Records throughout the 1960s resulting in a series of albums, he signed for soul/R&B influenced Kudu imprint of Creed Taylor's well-regarded CTI Records jazz record label in 1971. His first album for Taylor, Breakout was chosen that year to launch Kudu. The album featured Grover Washington Jr. as a sideman prior to the launch of his career as a solo recording artist. Three further albums followed with Taylor on Kudu, as he decided to refer to himself as "Johnny Hammond", after deciding to drop "Smith" from his name.[2][3]

His style had become increasingly funky as he adapted to the style changes in music, culminating in two popular albums with the Mizell Brothers, Gambler's Life (1974) for the CTI offshoot, Salvation and then in 1975, Gears after switching to another jazz label, Milestone Records. He began using electric and acoustic pianos, starting with Gambler's Life, in addition to his signature instrument. Hammond's song "Shifting Gears" was featured on the breakbeat compilation Ultimate Breaks and Beats, and was also featured in the soundtrack of the 2006 video game Driver: Parallel Lines as well. His song "Conquistadores Chocolates" was covered by BadBadNotGood and featured on GTA: The Cayo Perico Heist. (Rockstar Games)

Smith also taught at the Cal Poly Pomona music department for several years, beginning in January 1987.

He died in Victorville, California of cancer at the age of 63.[4]



As leader


LP/CD compilations

  • The Best Of Johnny "Hammond" Smith (Prestige PR 7705, 1969)
  • The Best Of Johnny "Hammond" Smith For Lovers (Prestige PR 7777, 1970)
  • Talk That Talk (Prestige, 1995) (compilation of Talk That Talk + Gettin' The Message)
  • That Good Feelin' (Prestige, 1996) (compilation of All Soul + That Good Feelin')
  • Legends Of Acid Jazz: Johnny "Hammond" Smith (Prestige, 1996) (compilation of Soul Talk + Black Feeling!)
  • Black Coffee (Milestone, 1997) (compilation of Black Coffee + Mr. Wonderful)
  • Legends Of Acid Jazz: Johnny "Hammond" Smith - Soul Flowers (Prestige, 1999) (compilation of Soul Flowers + Dirty Grape)
  • The Soulful Blues (Prestige, 2000) (compilation of Ebb Tide + Nasty!)
  • Open House (Milestone, 2001) (compilation of Open House! + A Little Taste)
  • Good 'Nuff (Prestige, 2003) (compilation of Cooks With Gator Tail + The Stinger)
  • Opus De Funk (Prestige, 2004) (compilation of Stimulation + Opus De Funk)

As sideman


With Gene Ammons

With Billy Butler

With Chris Columbus

  • Jazz: Re-Discovering Old Favorites [also released as Summertime] (Strand, 1962)

With Byrdie Green

  • The Golden Thrush Strikes at Midnight (Prestige PR 7503, 1966)
  • I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (Prestige PR 7509, 1967)
  • Sister Byrdie! (Prestige PR 7574, 1968)

With Oliver Nelson

With Sylvia Syms


  1. ^ Allmusic
  2. ^ "Johnny Hammond - Concord". concord.com. Retrieved 2024-02-24.
  3. ^ Myers, Marc. "Mrs. Johnny "Hammond" Smith".
  4. ^ "Bio". JohnnyHammondSmith.com. Retrieved October 7, 2022.