With a career spanning decades, filled with more than 70 albums and an enviable performance record, Dr. Lonnie Smith is a Buffalo-born B3 virtuoso. Catch him at Brooklyn Bowl on April 6th. Here is a quick view into the history of this legendary organist.
1. He’s One of the Forefathers of Acid Jazz
If you’re not interested in a musician who can balance the delicate whirlpool of jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul, Dr. Lonnie Smith will easily change your mind. His earth-shattering combinations of genres are ones everyone should experience.
2. He Was in “the Supremes” Before Diana Ross
So maybe they were two different bands, but the female singing group was almost sued by Dr. Lonnie for using the name “the Supremes.” In the ’50s, he was in a same-named band with saxophone player Grover Washington Jr. By the ’60s, Ross’s group was signed to Motown Records and churning out hits. “We had already made a record, and I was gonna sue to prevent her from using the name,” said Smith, “but I never did.” With that decision, the history of Motown was written.
3. His Organ Skills Are Second to None
The Hammond B3 organ is an infamously difficult beast to tame, but as a natural-born B3 wizard, Dr. Lonnie Smith has done just that, serving as an inspiration for generations of organ enthusiasts.
4. His Personality Speaks Volumes About His Style
With “Dr.” included in his name, you might assume Lonnie Smith has a Ph.D. in music engineering, right? Wrong. He calls himself that simply because he can. Don’t be fooled, his beard and turban are all about style and have nothing to do with religion.
5. His Influences Don’t Discriminate
His ravenous appetite for all things music has given us organ-laden recordings of our favorite artists, including covers of the Beatles, the Stylistics, and Eurythmics, plus tribute albums for Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Beck. Consistently adapting to his surroundings, Dr. Lonnie Smith is comfortable in any size ensemble, from a trio to big-band renditions of classic hits.
6. He Has an Album Called The Turbanator
The album art says it all….
7. With Age Comes Wisdom
Years of performing can take its toll on musicians and cause them to forget the real reasons they were drawn to their instrument. But Dr. Lonnie is the rare breed that’s never lost sight of his passion and unrelenting creativity.
“The thing about the music is that I try to play music that I like and it feels good. It don’t have nothing to do with — you know, some people record and do things because they want to show off. Your feel, your craft — you want to let the people hear your craft. You study all the time, so you have a tendency to want to do that. It’s not about that. It’s basically you just don’t let the feeling go. You’ve got to play from your heart. I tell all my students, ‘You play life.’ It’s not about all that stuff. You play life.”
8. His Record Label Is Preserving the Past
In 2012, Dr. Lonnie started a music label called Pilgrimage Inc. His mission was to make sure old and new artists had access to recordings that influence the way musicians view past music. And his dedication to the evolution of young talent furthers the innovation of music. Such self-released albums such as The Healer, In the Beginning, and Evolution have given Dr. Lonnie the creative freedom needed to bring back the lesser-known aspects of music from the ’60s and ’70s.
“There are songs that were very interesting. I might be able to do them again, but I don’t know if I can do them like I did it back then. Things that were totally different, but that were also beautiful to me. Yet, you will never hear that. A lot of young people these days are into the things that were done in the past, that’s how they’re learning. But they don’t get a chance to hear those things from the 1960s and what not. It would be quite interesting. So I decided to give them a chance to hear that stuff. That was one of my main purposes.”
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