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GUITARIST JOHNNY SMITH (June 25,1922 – June 12, 2013) ~ In Memoriam



Johnny Smith XL
© JazzTimes

For a jazz education class, guitarist Johnny Smith chalks up ideas behind his legendary arrangement of “Moonlight in Vermont,” a surprise and lasting hit he recorded with Stan Getz for Royal Roost Records in 1952.

In 1954, Birmingham, Alabama-born Smith wrote and recorded “Walk, Don’t Run,” which the Ventures recorded in 1959. Smith based the petulant melody line on chord changes to Sigmund Romberg’s “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise.” With composer royalties from this long-lasting hit, Johnny Smith opened a record store in Colorado Springs. Except for a 1977 tour with Bing Crosby, the reclusive musician spent his last five decades off the road and doing whatever he wished.

In the 1980s, a summer workshop teacher of writing at Bennington College, under the direct influence of Vermont moonlight, I composed a poem called “Moonlight In Vermont.” Now lost , the poem begs me to rewrite it all over again. I loved the way the Smith/Getz recording reopened for me,  just then a junior high tuba player, the poet’s entrance to moon savvy and awareness.

–Al Young

‘Johnny Smith, Venerable Jazz Guitarist, Dies at 90’  |  Paul Vitello  |  NYTimes  |  June 18, 2013

A Johnny Smith biography and discography
(Vintage Guitar)


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