Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers

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Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers
Born (1929-03-21)March 21, 1929
Lexington, Mississippi, United States
Died July 23, 1993(1993-07-23) (aged 64)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Chicago blues[1]
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer
Instruments Guitar, Vocals
Years active Early 1950s–1993
Labels Various

Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers (March 21, 1929 – July 23, 1993)[1] was an African American, Chicago blues guitarist and singer. He was once a member of Howlin' Wolf's backing band, and worked variously with Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Bo Diddley, Ike Turner, J. T. Brown, Freddie King, Little Johnny Jones, Little Walter, and Willie Dixon.[2][3] His younger brother, Abe (born Albert, January 2, 1939), became known as the bluesman Little Smokey Smothers, with whom he is sometimes confused.[2]


Smothers was born in Lexington, Mississippi, and was taught by his aunt to play both harmonica and guitar. Smothers relocated to Chicago in 1946, and his debut stage performance occurred with Johnny Williams and Johnny "Man" Young. In the early part of the 1950s, Smothers played alongside his own cousin Lester Davenport, plus Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, Earl Hooker, Henry Strong, and Bo Diddley.[2]

In 1956 and 1957, Howlin' Wolf invited Smothers to play as his rhythm guitarist on several Chess tracks, including "Who's Been Talking," "Tell Me," "Change My Way," "Goin' Back Home," "The Natchez Burning," and "I Asked For Water." Smothers secured a recording contract with Federal Records in August 1960. With Sonny Thompson as his record producer, and Freddie King on lead guitar, Smothers saw the resultant album, Smokey Smothers Sings the Backporch Blues released in 1962. Another four track session followed, including "Twist With Me Annie", a reworked version of "Work with Me, Annie." As a part-time member of Muddy Waters' backing band, Smothers also cut "I Got My Eyes on You," in 1968.[1][2]

Smothers help to form the Muddy Waters Junior Band in the late 1950s, as tribute to Muddy Waters. While Muddy Waters was on the road, Smothers and company would hold down Muddy's regular residency gigs in Chicago, performing Muddy's material and serving as a training ground for potential future members of Waters' own band, which both he and fellow 'Junior' band member George "Mojo" Buford eventually joined.

The 1970s were a lean time for Smothers, but he finally returned to recording in 1986, when Red Beans Records issued his album, Got My Eyes On You. His backing band were billed as The Ice Cream Men, a nod to Smothers working as an ice cream vendor back in the 1950s.[2]

Smothers wrote songs for Muddy Waters, and has a catalogue of songs to his credit including his, "I've Been Drinking Muddy Water",[4] "Ain't Gon Be No Monkey Man", and "Can't Judge Nobody."

Latterly suffering from heart disease, Smothers died in Chicago at the age of 64, in July 1993.[3][5]

A daughter is currently in process of bringing the brothers, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers and younger brother Abe "Little Smokey" Smothers, life story to the big screen.[citation needed] Smothers is survived by wife, Earline Smothers, his sons, daughters, five brothers and sisters, and extended family.



  • Sings the Backporch Blues (1962) - King
  • Drivin' Blues (1966) - King (re-issue of Sings the Backporch Blues)[6]
  • Got My Eyes on You (1986) - Red Beans[7]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Chicago Blues Session Volume 1 (1998) - Wolf[8]


  • Larkin, Colin, ed. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. vol. 5. New York City, New York: Stockton Press & Guinness Publishing Ltd, 1995.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dahl, Bill. "Otis Smokey Smothers". Allmusic. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Browning, Janet. "Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers". Mississippi Writers & Musicians. Retrieved March 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 1992 - 1993". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  4. ^ "Smokey Smothers - I've Been Drinking Muddy Water". YouTube. 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  5. ^ "Otis Smothers, 64, Delta Blues Bass Guitarist". Highbeam.com. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  6. ^ "WangDangDula.com". Koti.mbnet.fi. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  7. ^ "Otis Smokey Smothers | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  8. ^ "Otis Smokey Smothers | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

External links[edit]