Table of Contents
< All Topics

Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith, born James Oscar Smith on December 8, 1928, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, was an influential American jazz musician renowned for his skill on the Hammond B-3 organ. His work significantly contributed to popularizing the Hammond organ, bridging jazz and 1960s soul music.

Smith’s early years in music began with a song-and-dance routine with his father and later learning piano. He won a radio talent contest as a boogie-woogie pianist at age nine. Smith’s serious musical journey started in 1948, and he began exploring the Hammond organ in 1951, switching to it permanently in 1954 after being inspired by Wild Bill Davis.

His career took off after purchasing his first Hammond organ and practicing in a warehouse. He was signed by Blue Note’s Alfred Lion and released influential albums like “The Champ,” “The Sermon!,” and “Back at the Chicken Shack.” Smith joined Verve in 1962, further broadening his musical impact with albums like “Bashin'” and collaborations with Oliver Nelson, Lalo Schifrin, and Wes Montgomery.

In the 1970s, Smith opened a supper club in North Hollywood and released the album “Root Down,” a major influence on funk and hip-hop artists. His later career saw a revival in the 1980s and 1990s, with collaborations with Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, and B.B. King, among others.

Smith’s musical style was characterized by his virtuoso improvisation technique on the Hammond, contributing to its popularity in jazz and blues. He influenced numerous jazz organists and even rock keyboardists. Smith passed away on February 8, 2005, in Scottsdale, Arizona, leaving a legacy as a pioneering jazz organist.