Johnny Smith Remembers

May 28, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is an excellent feature on jazz guitar great Johnny Smith from Among many other things, it recounts the extreme workaholism of Smith during his New York days:

In addition to playing in as many as 35 radio (and later television) shows a week for NBC — including Highways in Melody, The Arthur Godfrey Ford Road Show, Star Time with Benny Goodman and Frances Langsford, The Patrice Munsel Show, The Dave Garroway Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC Fireside Theater — Smith played engagements with the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos, with the Philadelphia Symphony under Ormandy and with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini, and did increasing numbers of gigs on the side in Manhattan’s world-class nightclubs.

Apropos Toscanini, Smith remembers the peculiar Toscanini approach to orchestra management in the following way:

Toscanini was a genius, but he was a tyrant with a nasty temper,” Smith recalls. “He’d fly into towering rages. One time in rehearsal he jerked his beautiful gold watch from out of his vest pocket and slammed it down on the podium, sending parts spraying all over the stage. I walked on eggshells playing under his direction. I was very, very careful not to set him off


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