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Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 6:16 am
by linflanagan
I'm currently researching background information for a PhD on the music of the jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, who was a great personal friend of Chet Atkins. I have been led to believe that Mr Smith gave some of his equipment, including a Gibson amplifier, to a member of Mr Atkins' family. If anybody could shed some more light on this fragment of information, such as the model and to which member of the family, I'd be very grateful. Similarly, if anybody has any other information pertaining to Johnny Smith, I would love to hear it, as well.
I can be contacted at:

Many thanks.
Lin Flanagan

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:58 am
by BillB
I think Chet's nephew lived and maybe still lives in the Denver area, but I could be mistaken. Someone else may know better than this. Anyway, there may be a connection there.

Bill B.

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:19 am
by smokymtguitar09
Hi Lin,

I can't shed much information on Johnny Smith's personal contact with Chet Atkins or Chet's family. I do recall when Chet did an interview when preparing for a concert in Colorado he stated that he rarely got nervous before a concert, except this one because Johnny Smith would be in the audience. Chet remarked something to the effect that 'Johnny was such a good player and always played with should good taste'. So, probably Johnny was one of Chet's heroes.

Chet's nephew Jimmy Atkins told me that he once visited his cousin Gary Atkins in Colorado Springs and the two of them went to visit Johnny Smith. He said it took a lot of persuading to get Johnny to play for them, but he finally got out his Gibson guitar and played a few tunes and he sounded great.

The local newspaper in Colorado Springs had done some featured articles about Johnny. The newspaper would be a very good source for recent information on Johnny Smith.

Thanks, ... id=1376413

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:36 pm
by brad4d8
Have you tried contacting Johnny Smith? AFAIK, he's still alive and living in Colorado Springs. Beyond that I have no idea how to contact him.

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 2:52 am
by linflanagan
Thanks for your help, guys. Yes, I've been in touch with Johnny Smith, and he has said that he's happy to answer my questions. I'm trying to put together a piece of work/research that is meticulous and definitive, hence any stories or information from anybody would be a great help, too. I've spoken to Gary Atkins, who was absolutely wonderful and provided me with a lot of information that was new to me.
Thanks to everybody for your help and support on this.
Best wishes,

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:49 am
by BillB
Hey Lin,
I hope you will be able to share this with us once you have it altogether. I know there's a bunch of us that would enjoy hearing what Johnny and Gary have to say.

Bill B

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 9:41 am
by linflanagan
Hi Bill,
Thanks for your interest. I've had a flood of information come in about Johnny Smith from a range of sources since I spoke to Gary. I'm hoping, some time soon, so sit down and sort out all of my interview notes, because my brains are getting fried. Anything that is relevant to the Chetboard, I'll be sure to post here as soon as I can.

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 2:12 pm
by rickpitts
Johnny Smith owned a guitar store in Colorado Springs in the early seventies. I saw him perform with the Air Force Academy Band at the Air Force Academy in about 1973. It was a fabulous show.

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 10:12 pm
by Randy810
My best friend and I toured Colorado in the Summer of 1977. I was studying jazz guitar under Bill Barker at the time (a great jazz guitarist and archtop guitar maker). He told me I should stop in Colorado Springs and meet Johnny Smith. I must admit, at 20 years old, I didn't have an appreciation for Johnny. Bill would rave about his playing but you just didn't go down to the mall back then and buy those records. Once in town, we looked up Johnny's store and went in just after lunch. He was alone. I remember about 7 or 8 archtops hanging behind the register. I chatted with Johnny and found him very friendly. He turned and pulled the end archtop off the wall and handed it to me. It was his own personal Johnny Smith model! It was blonde. I remember him saying it was "more glue than wood" as he had repaired numerous cracks out on the road. He talked about a great guitar maker down in Florida that had just sent him a guitar. He opened the case and pulled out a Benedetto. He said it is a wonderful guitar but he couldn't play it out in public due to his contract with Gibson. I told this story to Bob and Cindy Benedetto a few years ago when I was in Savannah. Bob said he remembers getting that first order from Johnny in '77. It was a huge order. Before Johnny, the biggest name he had built for was Bucky Pizzarelli. It was years later when I bought my first Johnny Smith CD. I'm honored to have met Johnny but I feel bad that I had no idea at the time of his genius.

Re: Johnny Smith - PhD Research

PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:38 am
by linflanagan
Thanks for the updates, guys.

Rick, do you happen to remember where the Air Force Academy was/is? And also, was the Academy Band a small combo or a big band? Please forgive my ignorance on that.

Randy, that's really interesting. I was getting the impression from various sources that Johnny's Gibson deal prohibited him from certain things in public. Thanks for confirming my suspicions. You're not alone in not appreciating Johnny's genius during your younger days. I've felt like an Irish priest at times (Father Flanagan?), as a few guys have confessed to the same sin.

My apologies for not having replied to your kind postings earlier. The research has been frantically progressing in several directions at once! Most notably of late, in the orchestral and atonal music (e.g. Schoenberg etc) that Johnny took part in. Mmm, you need to be in the right mood for that stuff.

Thanks again.
Best wishes,