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Pinetop Smith

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Biography

Clarence Smith, better known as Pinetop Smith or Pine Top Smith (11 June 1904 - 15 March 1929) was an influential American boogie-woogie style jazz pianist.

Smith was born in Troy, Alabama and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. He worked for some time as an entertainer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then toured on the T. O. B. A. Vaudeville circuit. For a time he worked as accompanist for blues singer Ma Rainey.

In the late 1920s he settled in Chicago, Illinois. For a time he, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis lived in the same Chicago rooming house.

In 1928 he recorded his influential “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie”, one of the first “boogie woogie” style recordings to make a hit, and which cemented the name for the style. Pine Top talks over the recording, telling how to dance to the number. He said he originated the number at a house-rent party in St. Louis, Missouri. Pinetop was the first ever to direct “the girl with the red dress on” to “not move a peg” until told to “shake that thing” and “mess around”. Muddy Waters’ pianist Pinetop Perkins was named for his later recording of the song. Ray Charles adapted “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” for his song “Mess Around”.

Pinetop Smith was scheduled to make another recording session for Vocalion Records but died from a gunshot wound in a dance-hall fight in Chicago the day before the session. Sources differ as to whether he was the intended recipient of the bullet. “I saw Pinetop spit blood” was the famous headline in Downbeat magazine.

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  • LondonLouis

    Looks like Basie's Boogie Woogie has been mis-badged as a Pinetop Smith track

    19 Dec 2008 Reply

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