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Buster Smith


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Henry “Buster” Smith (August 24, 1904 – August 10, 1991), also known as Professor Smith, was an American jazz alto saxophonist.

Smith was instrumental in instituting the Texas Sax Sound with Count Basie and Lester Young in the 1930s and he was also a mentor to Charlie Parker.
Smith played saxophone for a range of musicians including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Earl Hines, though in his career he only recorded one solo album in 1959. Despite intending to release a follow-up in the 1960s, Smith was injured in an accident leading to a follow-up never eventuating.

Smith was born and raised in Alsdorf, Texas, a small township near Telico in the outskirts of Dallas, where he attended school as a child. Smith earned the name “Buster” from his parents as a baby, as he was born as an overweight child. Buster was the third of five boys and had no sisters, though both of his older brothers died in childhood of measles.
Smith’s early musical influences were his mother, and his father, who played guitar. At four years old, Buster was playing the organ with his brother, pianist Boston Smith; Buster played the keys and Boston stepped on the pedals. Soon thereafter, his grandfather gave away the family organ because he believed it would only direct Buster to a life of sin.

In 1919, Smith picked cotton for a week to earn himself the money to buy a $3.50 clarinet. Smith learned to play several instruments by the time he was eighteen years old. In 1922, Smith and his family moved to Dallas.


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