Singer -- Songwriter -- Guitarist -- Bandleader
For Johnny Smith singing has always been a passion. A songwriter and self taught musician, Smith began playing guitar at the age of 9. Despite being born and raised in Southern California, Smith’s family relocated to rural Missouri for a couple of years. It was 1973 and was then and there, he heard Elvis sing “Hound Dog” on “Aloha from Hawaii” via satellite, on the family’s one channel TV.
His mother bought him a guitar chord book, to which Smith caught on quickly, learning to play by ear and mimic the artists he listened to, which inspired him to write his own original music. Smith’s mother was so taken by his ability that she drove thirty miles to Colonel Buck Cody’s Jamboree in Marceline and waited patiently to convince the Colonel to allow Johnny to sing one song before the end of the night. When he stepped onto the stage, he told the band he wanted to sing “Hound Dog.” Seeing one of the guitar players ready to start in “C” he promptly, in a commanding voice shouted, “In the key of D!” His charismatic stage presence and mastery of the song led him to be invited to play every weekend all summer long.
Shortly thereafter the Smith family relocated back to Ventura California. Johnny’s early musical influences were Bob Dylan, Super Tramp, Tom Petty and John Denver who
all created magic with wonderful words, melodic ballads or rock guitar. At age 12, during a trip to Las Vegas, Johnny’s guitar was left in the trunk of the family car where it warped from the heat. However, so consummate was he about music he continued to play the mangled instrument. His mother took him to a music store and bought him a Martin D-35, which he continues to play today. Smith played for his family and school talent shows as well as competing in the Horace Heidt Jr. and the Musical Knights Talent Contest at the Top of the Harbor in Ventura where he won the semi final competition.
His high school years took him briefly away from this music as his interests turned to working as a carpenter, cars and the military. He enlisted in the Marines right out of High School where he re-ignited his love for music while stationed in Okinawa. He bought a guitar for $100 and wrote 12 songs that year at the age of 19.
Inspired and critiqued by his Uncle, Delaney and Aunt Bonnie Bramlett of the hippie movement hit group Delaney and Bonnie (Only You Know & I Know, Never Ending Song of Love, Soul Shake) and encouraged to sing with feeling, they composed three songs, (two with Delaney one with Bonnie) in addition to a couple of recording sessions at Delaney’s Rock n’ Roll Ranch, as a backing vocalist, Smith once performed in the same capacity with his Uncle on stage at Trancas in Malibu.
Smith’s musical career has consisted of a well rounded journey. Smith played in three bands in the Los Angeles area, most notably “LA Rain,” before moving to the Bay Area in 1994 where he struck out on his own and formed a band called the “Smithtones.” After winning the regional battle of the bands competition in 1997, he changed the name of the band to Alias Smith preceding their self titled independently produced and recorded debut CD. Following the release of Alias Smith (Napa Rain Publishing, 1997) with Johnny on lead vocals and guitar, the band presented their originals on an 18 gig tour of Northern Europe. A popular song to this day, “Our Love is Like a Rock,” received radio play and made number one on a local radio station request list. In 2002, Johnny produced his second CD, a collection of solo original music entitled Just a Man (Napa Rain Publishing, 2002). This release presents a wide range of style and excellent songwriting. The Napa Valley Register states “Just a Man is full of lovelorn blues and well crafted ballads. The arrangements are slick and upbeat, a real credit to an independently produced recording project.” The range of musical diversity that the CD displays is evident by the sultry soulful voice of Johnny Smith as he conveys all the emotions of love lost or low down blues.
Smith is a charismatic singer with a commanding stage presence, with evident audience appeal. Proven to be a versatile performer and accomplished musician, Smith naturally takes center stage as lead vocalist when playing with his band and is equally adept at delivering a solid solo acoustic performance. Smith has enjoyed opening for such groups as Starship, the Beach Boys, Roger McQuinn, and Johnny A in addition to singing a duet with Maria Muldaur at her recent Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul CD release party.
His latest release, San Francisco Bay Jazz is a project close to Smith’s heart. It’s was an opportunity to express himself in the most classic format, displaying his organic and appealing delivery on timeless material adorned by his masculine well rounded vocals. His ability to convey the lyric with believable storytelling is the cornerstone to this release.
Proven to be a versatile performer and accomplished musician, Johnny delivers a solid solo acoustic performance. When performing with the band, Johnny naturally takes center stage as lead vocalist and is regularly featured as an entertaining duo with fellow guitarists or bassists. Johnny's repertoire and style ranges from contemporary folk and reggae to classic rock and blues, where he has been known to add a little extra grit of a harmonica to bring his music alive. All genres are an easy delivery for this talented and passionate entertainer who performs regularly throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. For additional information, please visit the website at www.johnnysmithgroup.com.