Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Roy Smeck born 6 February 1900


Leroy Smeck (6 February 1900 – 5 April 1994) was an American musician. His skill on the banjo, guitar, and ukulele earned him the nickname "The Wizard of the Strings".

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Smeck started on the vaudeville circuit. His style was influenced by Eddie Lang, Ikey Robinson, banjoist Harry Reser, Johnny Marvin and steel guitarist Sol
Hoopii. Smeck could not sing well, so he developed novelty dances and trick playing to supplement his act.

He was one of only two vaudeville artists to play the octachord, an 8-string lap steel guitar. He was introduced to the instrument by Sam Moore when he played on the bill with Moore and Davis in 1923. His 1928 recording of Sam Moore's "Laughing Rag" played on the octachord is considered a classic of slide guitar.

Like so many of the performers during the era, he was a big fan of the instruments created by the C.F. Martin & Company and used a variety of their instruments. Smeck was unsuccessful in obtaining an endorsement deal with Martin, who limited their support to a twenty percent discount for all performers. As a result, he endorsed the Harmony and Gibson guitars and Harmony ukuleles. Smeck was also known for his work on the Harmony company's Vita-Uke along with a number of other versions sold with his signature across the headstock.

Roy was not a vocalist; to compensate he developed a large number of novelty items for his act. In addition to playing the ukulele with his teeth, he would play it behind his back or even use a violin bow. He was an early radio performer, putting together acts for appearances across the country. Almost all of them had his name in the band title, including The Roy Smeck Trio, The Roy Smeck Quartet, Roy Smeck and his Vita Trio, Roy Smeck's Novelty Orchestra and Roy Smeck and His Music Men.

In 1926 he appeared in one of the first sound films ever made by Warner Brothers/Vitaphone. The first nationally promoted Vitaphone talking picture was "Don Juan," starring John Barrymore, and the production was accompanied by other short entertaining video pieces including one entitled "His Pastimes" featuring Smeck. The "Pastimes" piece made him an
instant celebrity and was the beginning of six decades of accomplishments on the banjo, guitar, steel guitar and uke.

Roy  played at Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential inaugural ball in 1933, George VI's coronation review in 1937, and toured globally and played in Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico, Korea and, of course, Hawaii.  He appeared on television on variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and Jack Paar. From 1943 to 1945, he headlined a USO show that toured veteran hospitals in the United States in a show that featured the Meri-Maids, starring Marjorie Lynn, a Chicago native, of National Barn Dance fame.


                     Here's "Bye Bye Blues" from above E.P.

                             

Smeck designed and endorsed the Vita-Uke and other stringed instruments marketed by the Harmony Company of Chicago. He made over 500 recordings for various companies, including Edison Records, Victor Talking Machine Company, Columbia Records, Decca Records, Crown Records, RCA Records and others.

Smeck believed in educating as much as entertaining. He published numerous books of musical instruction, including a series with Mel Bay, and he stayed active as a teacher right up to the time of his death. Several generations of ukulele and banjo players credit him as an inspiration and mentor. When he was touring, he often put on workshops, appeared free at music stores, or held talent contests for local players. Over the course of his career, his name became better known among musicians than average listeners.

A documentary by Alan Edelstein and Peter Friedman, The Wizard of the Strings (1985), was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and won an award at the Student Academy Awards.

Although his performing and teaching schedule slowed down in his last two decades, he never retired. He died in 1994 at Roosevelt Hospital, he was 94 and living in Manhattan.


In 1998, he was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame. His citation read, in part, "The 'Wizard of the Strings' captured the hearts and minds of audiences for more than six decades."  He was posthumously inducted into the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame in 2001.

(Edited from Wikipedia, Ukelele.org & Space Age Pop)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Roy Smeck - The Wizard of the Strings” go here:

https://www.upload.ee/files/9531272/Roy_Smeck-Wizard_of_the_Strings.rar.html

1. TWELFTH STREET RAG
2. MUSIC BOX WALTZ
3. MELODY IN F
4. I AIN'T GOT NOBODY
5. AIN'T SHE SWEET
6. UKE SAID IT
7. HUMORESQUE
8. WALTZ OF YESTERYEAR
9. FIVE FOOT TWO
10. SWEET GEORGIA BROWN
11. HONOLULU SHUFFLE
12. JUNE NIGHT
13. CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN
14. SAY IT WITH MUSIC
15. TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE!
16. BYE, BYE BLUES
17. RUNNING WILD
18. THE SHEIK OF ARABY
19. WHISPERING
20. LINGER AWHILE
21. SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL
22. AVALON
23. WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS
24. BEGIN THE BEGUINE
25. WALTZ ITALIANO
26. BLUE' N THE BLUES
27. SUMMER SHADOW
28. ESCAPE TANGO
29. HAPPY POLKA
30. TICO TICO
31. WHEN WILL YOU KNOW


Considered to be the dean of the fretted instrument family and one of the finest string instrumentalists of all time is, Roy Smeck - truly, 'The Wizard of the Strings'.

The first eleven tracks of this jasmine CD showcase Roy on the ukulele and included is his first big solo, 'Twelfth Street Rag' and his version of 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. Next up is the banjo and we are treated to all of its contagious rhythmic possibilities on tracks such as, 'Say It with Music' and the ever popular, 'The Sheik of Araby' and 'Way Down Yonder In New Orleans'. Finally Jasmine round off this collection with some guitar, mainly in the form of the Spanish guitar on original compositions of 'Happy Polka', 'Begin the Beguine' and 'Tico Tico'.

Whatever instrument it may be and whatever your mood of the moment you will surely find it among the 31 tracks on offer here.

And a big thank you to Xena Dress @ ACM2 blog for original post.