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Willie The Lion Smith (1897-1973)
Willie The Lion Smith (1897-1973)Willie “The Lion” Smith (November 23, 1893 – April 18, 1973) was one of the fathers of the stride piano style. During the 1920s he was a sort of underground figure, who gained a reputation as a hot piano player by providing the music for rent parties in the private homes and small clubs of Harlem. He recorded rarely during the 1920s, but was the first musical director of Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds and is the pianist on “Crazy Blues“, the first Blues record released in 1920.

Smith was a major influence on Duke Ellington who later went on to write the songs “Portrait of the Lion” and “Second Portrait of the Lion” in honor of him. Smith didn’t make any recordings under his own name until the mid-1930s, but played on several of Perry Bradford’s sessions like Georgia StruttersThe Gulf Coast Seven and The Blue Rhythm Orchestra. Throughout his career he led few bands, preferring the life of a solo performer, but he remained very active in music until his death in 1973.

See: Willie “The Lion” Smith: Profiles in Jazz

band or session leader

Willie “The Lion” Smith and his Orchestra Willie “The Lion” Smith and his Cubs

Willie The Lion Smith (1897-1973)

Title Recording Date Recording Location Company
Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
(Ted Koehler / Harold Arlen)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
(Ted Koehler / Harold Arlen)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Concentrating
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Concentrating
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Echoes Of Spring
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Echoes Of Spring
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Fading Star
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Fading Star
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Finger Buster
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Finger Buster
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Hallelujah 12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
(Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
I’ll Follow You
(Fred Ahlert / Roy Turk)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
I’ll Follow You
(Fred Ahlert / Roy Turk)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Just One Of Those Things
(Cole Porter)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Madelon 12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Morining Air
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Decca 2269 B
Morining Air
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Passionette
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Decca 2269 A
Passionette
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Poor Butterfly 12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Rippling Waters
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Rippling Waters
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
(Otto Harbach / Jerome Kern)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Sneakaway
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Sneakaway
(Willie “The Lion” Smith)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Stormy Weather
(Harold Arlen / Ted Koehler)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Stormy Weather
(Harold Arlen / Ted Koehler)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
Tea For Two
(Vincent Youmans / Irving Caesar)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
Tea For Two
(Vincent Youmans / Irving Caesar)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
The Boy In The Boat
(Fats Waller / Clarence Williams)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
The Boy In The Boat
(Fats Waller / Clarence Williams)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore
What It There To Say?
(Vernon Duke / E.Y. Harburg)
1-10-1939 New York, New York Commodore
What It There To Say?
(Vernon Duke / E.Y. Harburg)
12-1950 New York, New York Commodore

Willie The Lion Smith (1897-1973)

Music on my mind; the memoirs of an American pianist, by Willie the Lion Smith with George Hoefer, Doubleday 1964

 

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