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Johnny Smith -
The following extract of an interview with Johnny Smith is reproduced with kind permission from Jim Carlton’s Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists, published by Mel Bay Publications.
You can read more of this extended interview with Johnny Smith and further fascinating interviews with many other celebrated guitarists in Jim Carlton’s Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists, published by Mel Bay Publications.
Walk, Don’t Run
Jim Carlton: What was your reaction to the Ventures recording ‘Walk, Don’t Run’?
Johnny Smith: Somebody was really looking out for me, Jim. I had an accident in an airplane then. I was a flight instructor and I got into this airplane and the backseat came down and ripped off the end of my ring finger. This was around 1963, just about the time the Ventures’ recording made a hit. If it hadn’t have been… well, to start with, it began with Chet Atkins. Chet had made a recording of ‘Walk, Don’t Run’.
He came to see me in Birdland one night and asked if he could record this song. I said, “Well sure, go ahead.” He said, “No, I’m not gonna do it unless I can show you how I’m going to do it in my style.” So, we went back to a little dressing room there at Birdland and guys were shootin’ up and lightin’ up [laughs] and Chet was in a state of shock [laughs].
But anyway, he sat down and played his version for me and I thought it was terrific. So he did it and the Ventures heard his recording and that’s how they came to record it. And it started to become a big hit around 1962 or ‘63 when this accident with my finger happened. I was out of commission for a whole year. Even though we had the music store, it wasn’t making any money because we were building inventory and so forth. So actually, without the Ventures’ recording I don’t know if I could have survived there.
Johnny Smith at the North Wales Jazz Festival in 2003. Photograph courtesy of Friedhelm Rump.
On His Own Recordings
The truth of it is, once you record something, the minute you look back on it you realize you could have done it better. And sure, there’s so many things that I did that I feel I could have done better. I believe that’s just being truthful and honest with yourself.
|An Appreciation (Part 1)
|An Appreciation (Part 2)
|An Appreciation (Part 3)
|Interview (Part 1)
|Interview (Part 2)
|Albums on Other Labels
|Moonlight in Vermont