Johnny Smith, (born John Henry Smith, Jr. on June 25, 1922 in Birmingham, Alabama - died June 11, 2013) was an American jazz guitarist, although he did not consider himself to be a musician in the idiom. His most critically acclaimed album was "Moonlight in Vermont" (one of Downbeat magazine's top two jazz records for 1952, featuring saxophonists Stan Getz and Zoot Sims). Smith's playing was characterized by closed-position chord voicings and rapidly ascending lines (reminiscent of Django, but more diatonic than chromatically-based). From those famous 1952 sides and in to the 1960s he recorded for the Roost label, on whose releases his reputation mainly rests. Mosaic Records has issued the majority of them in an 8CD set.
His most famous musical composition is the tune "Walk, Don't Run", written for a 1955 recording session as counter-melody to the chord changes of "Softly, As in the Morning Sunrise". Another guitarist Chet Atkins covered the song. Some musicians who became The Ventures heard the Atkins version, simplified it and speeded it up and made it into a big hit in 1960.
An extremely diverse musician, Johnny Smith was equally at home playing in the famous Birdland jazz club or sight reading scores in the orchestral pit of the New York Philharmonic. From Schoenberg to Gershwin to originals, Smith was undoubtedly one of the most versatile guitarists of the 1950s.
Johnny Smith stepped out of the public eye/ear in the late 1960s, having moved to Colorado in 1958 to teach and run a music store and to raise his daughter after the passing of his second wife.[ Biographical Article On Smith]
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