Johnny Smith, 1922-2013

Guild is saddened to note the passing of jazz guitar great Johnny Smith.

Smith, 90, died June 11, 2013, at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., after suffering complications from a fall.

A master of composition, arrangement and technique, Smith is best known for his Grammy-winning 1952 cover of “Moonlight in Vermont” with tenor sax great Stan Getz. Smith also wrote instrumental guitar classic “Walk, Don’t Run” (1954), which became a quintessential surf-rock standard when the Ventures recorded it in 1959. In addition to Getz, he accompanied artists including Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and many others.

The Washington Post noted that the “sumptuous melodic style, understated precision and remarkable consistency of Mr. Smith’s playing over the decades brought him countless admirers at the highest levels of his craft.”

Born June 25, 1922, in Birmingham, Ala., Smith taught himself guitar during childhood and had turned pro by his early teens during the Depression. He played cornet in the Army Air Forces band during World War II, after which he established himself in New York as one of the city’s top guitarists. Smith played with the NBC radio studio orchestra under conductor Arturo Toscanini. Onstage, he performed difficult compositions by Arnold Schoenberg with conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, and he appeared often at New York jazz nightclub Birdland.

Mainstream success came with 1952 album Moonlight in Vermont and its title track, which was Smith’s breakthrough hit ranked among the top-selling jazz singles of the period.

Smith left New York at the height of his career, however, after the 1958 death of second wife Ann Westerstrom during childbirth. He decided to raise his daughter in Colorado Springs, where he had family. He opened a music store and taught guitar there (Bill Frisell was one of his students), aided at times by royalties from “Walk, Don’t Run.”

The Smithsonian Institution bestowed its James Smithson Bicentennial Medal on Smith in 1998 for his contributions to American culture.

Smith occupies a special place in Guild history for his 1955 guitar design that in essence made him the company’s first signature artist. Smith worked with Guild founder Alfred Dronge on the resulting guitar, called the Johnny Smith Award model. Decades later, Smith once again lent his endorsement to Guild for its handmade Johnny Smith Award by Benedetto guitar of 2002-2005.

 

Wilson T. King Pushing Modern Blues with The Last of the Analogues

With Wilson T. King’s latest album The Last of the Analogues, the British guitarist is attempting to expand on what people think of when it comes to the blues.

King was recently featured in Guitar Player, where he discussed what he considered a darker project, his motivation behind the record and the gear he used on it.

“My first record, Follow Your First Mind, was more of an experiment,” he said. “For this one I brought in a lot of the production skills I learned over the years working with indie bands. Songwriting became a little more important on this record. I think it’s darker, I think it’s more widescreen, and I think it’s got a bigger message. I found more spaces for the guitar to breathe in, free of what’s come before, which I think is really important for the guitar to survive as a contemporary art form. That’s why I did it: out of a love for the guitar. I can’t express that too vividly.”

While King used a ’69 Stratocaster on the majority of the album, he noted that he pulled out a Guild acoustic guitar for the lead-in to the bombastic track “This Mountain of Fire.”

“That’s a Guild from the mid ’90s in stereo,” he said. “It was a mistake how I got that sound. I had a reverb on it and somehow I had bussed it to another reverb with a slight delay. I didn’t realize what I had done for a couple of weeks but I thought it sounded brilliant. I think the mic was a Rode Classic, six to 12 inches back, aimed at the neck joint, and I rolled off the low end. I was definitely thinking Townshend on that, like on Quadrophenia or Who’s Next where he gets that widescreen acoustic sound.”

Read the full Q&A here and click here to hear “This Mountain of Fire.”

Guild Guitars Abound at MerleFest

The 2013 MerleFest in Wilkesboro, N.C., took place on April 25-28 and featured a lineup that brought out the stars of Americana and roots music.

Performers included the Avett Brothers, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Leon Russell, The Charlie Daniels Band, Gov’t Mule, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, American Legacies: The Del McCoury Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Patrick Sweany, who is featured in the image above.

Guild guitars were also on site at Wilkes Community College, where the Guild Airstream provided a spot for attendees to try out some acoustic models.

View the full gallery of Guild at MerleFest here and click here for more information about the event.

Premier Guitar Runs Through Kim Thayil’s Rig

Premier Guitar‘s Chris Kies recently caught up with Soundgarden and the band’s guitar and bass techs to discuss the gear the grunge legends are using live on their King Animal tour.

In the clip below, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil discusses finding his go-to Guild guitar at age 19, and also demonstrates his go-to effect combinations.

Andertons Music Breaks Down Newark St. Collection

Andertons Music came over from the U.K. to attend the 2013 NAMM Show, and while there, they stopped by the Guild Showcase to check out Guild’s new line of electric guitars.

The Newark St. Collection features several electric models including the M-75 Aristocrat and S-100 Polara.  Learn more about them in the clip below.

Watch Noah Gundersen Play ‘Dying Now’

When Seattle singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen stopped by the Guild Airstream, he played “Dying Now,” a darkly sweet song about life and death.

“Dying Now” was recorded as part of last year’s Protosong project, which is a charity event that let fans donate what they want for a playlist of 21 exclusive songs.  Seventy percent of the proceeds from the event went to acquire clean water to those who need it most, while the rest went to the artists.

As for Gundersen, he currently has several dates scheduled through April with the To Write Love on Her Arms Heavy and Light tour.  Heavy and Light is an evening of hope that looks to encourage people through great music and powerful words, to stay alive and to get the help they need.  Continue reading