Stuff Smith, whose birthday was yesterday, was originally named Hezekiah Leroy Gordon Smith (September 14, 1909 - September 25, 1967).
He commenced playing at age 9 in the Calument Entertainers, his fathers 12 piece band. He won a music scholarship to university and worked in various bands as a vocalist and violinist in the mid 1920s. In 1927 he moved to New York to play with Jelly Roll Morton. He left NYC, got married and swung the catgut in a few bands until 1936 when he took up a residency at the Onyx Club on 52nd street. His Onyx Club Boys had a minor novelty hit, "I'se a Muggin' on Vocalion in 1936, also covered by Mezz Mezzrow, and Jack Teagarden.
Smith was one of the great swing jazz violinists alongside Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli. Inspired and influenced by Louis Armstrong he worked with Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and for a short time took over Fats Wallers group after the big man's death. Some sources credit him as being the first violinist to use electric amplification.
He was a respected contributor to one of my favourite genres around that era, or any era: the weed song .
He recorded Youse a Viper in 1936
Dreamt about a reefer
Five feet long
Mighty Mezz, but not too strong
You'll be high, but not for long
If youse a viper..
and Here Comes the Man with the Jive [sample Windows Media]
Another example of the genre: When I Get Low, I Get High [MP3] by Ella Fitzgerald
Stuff Smith - Here's hopin' it's a smooth Mighty Mezz on your big day.
Happy Birthday Cat of the Week