Talmadge "Tab" Smith (January 11, 1909 – August 17, 1971) was an American swing and rhythm and blues alto saxophonist. He is best known for the tracks, "Because Of You" and "Pretend". He variously worked with Count Basie, the Mills Rhythm Boys and Lucky Millinder.
Smith was born in Kinston, North Carolina, United States. He joined his first professional band, the Carolina Stompers, in 1929. In 1931 he joined Eddie Johnson and his Crackerjacks in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s he spent several years in the bands of Lucky Millinder and Count Basie, as well as spending long periods freelancing both as a player and as an arranger. In 1944 he participated in a recording date led by Coleman Hawkins, for which he also arranged the material. After the Second World War he led his own groups, which concentrated on rhythm and blues as jazz turned from swing to bop.
From 1944 through 1949 he fronted his own combo, recording for various small labels in New York area, including J. Mayo Williams' Southern company. Then he moved his base of operations back to St. Louis.
He suffered what was a common tragedy among the traveling R & B crowd when a serious auto accident in 1947 injured him and killed vocalist Trevor Bacon. He quit music for a time and did not resume until late in 1950. At that time he led a small combo and had an extended engagement at the 20th Century Club in St.Louis.
Tab Smith enjoyed a little success with the faltering Premium label in early 1951 (the remnants were cannily snapped up by Chess when Premium went out of business). As soon as he could, Simpkins brought him over to the new label. When Smith joined United Records, his skill as an alto saxophonist was fully matured, and the result was a fine series of ballads, blues, and novelty numbers all superbly realized in full lush tone and masterful phrasing.
His biggest R&B hit was "Because of You", which reached number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 20 on the pop chart, in 1951. " Tab Smith put out 24 singles and a 10-inch album for the label. On his United sides, Smith sometimes played tenor saxophone. Smith released "You Belong To Me" on United Records in 1953.
In 1952 Smith starts to get many personal appearance jobs including the Ebony Lounge in Cleveland, Philadelphia's Club Harlem, and soon the Apollo Theatre in New York. In early 1953 Tab joins Jimmy Witherspoon, Willie Mae Thornton, and the Johnny Otis band on an extensive tour of one nighters. In 1955 Tab Smith and The Five Royales continue on tour doing a number of dates in California as United Records continues to release instrumental styling's by the altoist
Tab Smith by now was a mostly forgotten player in the musical sweepstakes as the audience had changed by the late 1950s. Certainly not a part of the American Bandstand generation, and not happy with the situation with Chess, he hung around for a short time until he made the decision in late 1960 to retire from the music business altogether, ending a thirty year career.
From then on he still played, but had now made his home in St. Louis, Missouri where he played organ in a restaurant, as well as becoming a real estate agent. He died in the city on 17 August 1971, aged 62.He was United Records answer to Earl Bostic, and their careers certainly had many parallels. Smith had fleeting success, even less than Bostic, but his longevity as a sax stylist made him a musician to remember. He was a name to recall as the foundation of rock' n roll was being built, and his connection with United Records was part of that history in which the independent record labels were so much an important part. We remember Tab Smith, altoist.
(Info mainly edited from Wikipedia and Earthlink. Mp3 from “Dad’s 45’s” blog)