I do not own the rights to this material, and am merely presenting this out-of-print recording here for educational purposes and historical significance. Copyright infringement is not intended.
Shiny Stockings, recorded by Johnny Smith from the 1968 Verve release, 'Phase II'.
John Henry "Johnny" Smith (June 25, 1922 – June 11, 2013) was an American cool jazz and mainstream jazz guitarist. He wrote the tune "Walk, Don't Run" in 1954. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1984, Smith was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
During the Great Depression, Smith's family moved from Birmingham through several cities, ending up in Portland, Maine.
Smith taught himself to play guitar in pawnshops, which let him play in exchange for keeping the guitars in tune. At thirteen years of age he was teaching others to play the guitar. One of Smith's students bought a new guitar and gave him his old guitar, which became the first guitar Smith owned.
Smith joined Uncle Lem and the Mountain Boys, a local hillbilly band that traveled around Maine, performing at dances, fairs and similar venues. Smith earned four dollars a night. He dropped out of high school to accommodate this enterprise.
Having become increasingly interested in the jazz bands that he heard on the radio, Smith gradually moved away from country music towards playing more jazz. He left The Mountain Boys when he was eighteen years old to join a variety trio called the Airport Boys.
Having learned to fly from pilots he befriended, Smith enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in the hopes of becoming a military pilot. He was invalidated from the flight programme because of imperfect vision in his left eye. Given a choice between joining the military band and being sent to mechanic's school, Smith opted to join the military band. Smith claims that they gave him a cornet, an Arban's instructional book and two weeks to meet the standard, which included being able to read music. Determined not to go to mechanic's school, Smith spent the two weeks practicing the cornet in the latrine, as recommended by the bandleader, and passed the examination.
An extremely diverse musician, Johnny Smith was equally at home playing in the famous Birdland jazz club or sight reading scores in the orchestral pit of the New York Philharmonic. From Schoenberg to Gershwin to originals, Smith was one of the most versatile guitarists of the 1950s.
As a staff studio guitarist and arranger for NBC from 1946 to 1951, and on a freelance basis thereafter until 1958, he played in a variety of settings from solo to full orchestra and had his own trio, The Playboys, with Mort Lindsey and Arlo Hults.
Smith's playing is characterized by closed-position chord voicings and rapidly ascending lines (reminiscent of Django, but more diatonic than chromatically-based). From those famous 1952 sides and into the 1960s he recorded for the Roost label, on whose releases his reputation mainly rests. Mosaic Records has issued the majority of them in an 8-CD set.
His most critically acclaimed single was Moonlight in Vermont (one of Down Beat magazine's top two jazz records for 1952, featuring saxophonist Stan Getz).
His most famous musical composition is the tune "Walk Don't Run", written for a 1954 recording session as counter-melody to the chord changes of "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise". Guitarist Chet Atkins covered the tune, recording a neo-classical rendition of the song on the electric guitar for his Hi Fi in Focus album which preceded the Ventures' hit by three years. He played his arrangement fingerstyle, including the bass notes A,G,F and E which later became the basis for the Ventures' arrangement. The musicians who became The Ventures heard the Atkins version, simplified it, sped it up, and recorded it in 1960. The Ventures' version went to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100 for a week in September 1960.
Johnny Smith stepped out of the public eye in the 1960s, having moved to Colorado in 1958 to teach and run a music store and to raise his daughter after the death of his second wife.