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I don't want this ever published while I'm alive, because if I did get any money for it, I would just drink myself to death - Blind Willie McTell On His 1956 Recordings

Author Topic: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson  (Read 1920 times)

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Offline doctorpep

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Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« on: April 26, 2010, 08:16:51 AM »
I'm listening to Clifford Hayes' Louisville Jug Blowers at the moment. The guitarist is rather amazing and plays a bit like Lonnie Johnson did on some of Lonnie's instrumental recordings. The Jug Blowers track which stands out to me as being both wonderful and Lonnie-like (redundant!) is "Blue Guitar Stomp". I'm wondering who in the world Cal Smith is, as Allmusic has no biography for him. Is there a possibility that Cal and Lonnie is the same person? If not, is there a possibility that the two crossed paths? Any information would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2010, 09:33:04 AM »
Carl Lee "Cal" Smith did exist. I'll have to look up his entry in the booklet The Jug Bands Of Louisville...when I can locate it!

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2010, 12:26:54 PM »
Bit of a nightmare to OCR but hope I've corrected all the scan anomalies

The Jug Bands Of Louisville. Compiled by Laurie Wright from Material Supplied by Fred Cox, John Randolph and John Harris (Storyville Publications 1993) - page 27:

SMITH, Carl Lee "Cal" (tenor banjo, 4 string tenor guitar)
Born: 7 March, 1903, Cave City, Kentucky.
Died: Summer, 1937, Louisville

An acknowledged virtuoso on banjo and tenor guitar, Cal Smith was the fourth son born into a musical family. His three older brothers all played musical instruments. His oldest brother, Clarence, led a string band which played around Cave City and Cal began playing banjo with the family group. When Clarence went into the army in 1917, the Smith family moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, where Cal continued to play with his brothers in a string band. He joined the Henry Smith Jug Band, a kids' street band, in Louisville in 1919. (Henry Smith was not related to Cal.) Cal Smith was probably the one single musician most in demand in the 1920s. From 1923, until his death in 1937, he played almost every night with one group or another. A heavy drinker, he never married; music was his life. During the 1920s and 1930s he played mostly with his uncle Clifford Hayes, with Earl McDonald, or with the Henry Smith Jug Bands, being little interested in the myriad problems of booking and leading his own band, but he managed to play with nearly every loading dance and jazz combo in the area during the same period. In July 1926 he was a member of W.C. Handy's Orchestra playing Memphis and the surrounding area along with a number of other Louisville musicians.. He lived in a sparsely furnished room and his social life consisted solely of meeting his musician friends or his brothers during the day, since he played practically every night. His one best personal trait was dependability, despite his heavy drinking habits; if he agreed to play, he always showed up for the job ready and able to play. Cal disappeared from the Louisville scene late in 1936 and the next thing anyone, even his brothers, knew, he had died at the Waverly Hills Sanitorium, sometime during the summer of 1937, presumably from the debilitating effect of tuberculosis.

Recorded with:
Old Southern Jug Band, Aeolian Vocahon, New York, 1924
Clifford's Louisville Jug Band, OKeh, Chicago, 1925
Dixieland Jug Blowers, Victor, Chicago, 1926,1927
Earl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug Band, Columbia, Atlanta, 1927
Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers, Victor, Chicago, 1927, 1928
Kentucky Jazz Babies, Victor, Chicago, 1929
Jimmie Rodgers/Ben Ferguson/John Harris ace. Louisville Jug Band, Victor, Louisville, 1931

« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 12:30:01 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline doctorpep

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2010, 06:37:15 PM »
Thank you very much for the information. He was a great player. Something about the combination of his playing and that of Clifford Hayes makes me think about Django and Grappelli. I'm sure that they were light years away from each other in terms of technical abilities, but who cares?
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline Benjamin L

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2019, 04:35:55 AM »
Hey,

if it is still of interest.
I love the way Cal Smith played his banjo or tenor guitar. I found some information regarding his person and family in the book written by Michael L. Jones: Louisville Jug Music - From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee.

He writes:

"Guitarist John Smith, the other person arrested that night in 1914, was probably a member of the musically inclined Smith family of southern Indiana. There were six brothers who played music, including noted guitarist/banjo player Cal Smith. By all accounts, Cal could have had a great career if not for heavy drinking. He played with most of McDonald's outfits abd wutg tge W.C. Handy Orchestra. He was only thirty-four when he died in 1937. Ralph S. Helm, jug player for the Juggernaut Jug Band, says guitarist Ed Chestnut, who also played with McDonald, had found memories of Cal Smith.
I sat with Ed Chestnut over in his basement in New Albany, and we talked about the old jug band guys, Helm told me in an interview.

He said Cal Smith may have been a little afraid to go out and travel. Cal seriously could have been another Lonnie Johnson, but bigger because he was in that jazzy era. He could have gone to New York ad been the forerunner of someone like Charlie Christian, maybe. Ed told me that every black band--Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Lunceford, even Benny Goodman's people--whenever they were in Louisville they were all looking for Cal. They al wanted to go hear him play. I believe him. When you listen to those old recordings with him on banjo or guitar, he was that goot" (p.83).

 

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2019, 12:38:57 PM »
I find my music collection sorely lacking in the Louisville jug band ouvre. I just have a few choice sides on compilations like Yazoo's Ruckus Juice and Chittlins and a few others. Are the three volumes (or did I see a fourth somewhere) of Clifford Hayes & Louisville Jug Bands, from RST, the go to source? And are there liner notes that make the CDs worth getting over downloads? Seems like I can get most of the discographies from B&GR, or the Discogs site for those considered jazz.

Thanks much,
Wax
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 12:40:38 PM by waxwing »
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Offline Stuart

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« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 01:44:51 PM by Stuart »

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2019, 05:49:07 AM »
I like Smith's little showpiece tune, "Tenor Guitar Fiend." He had great tone and touch on those records. He also has a great little solo on Jimmie Rodger's "My Good Gal's Gone Blues."

Offline waxwing

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Re: Cal Smith/Lonnie Johnson
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2019, 12:04:04 PM »
Thanks much, Stuart, especially for those liner notes. I've downloaded a couple volumes, but have exceeded my weekly music purchase limit.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

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