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Wed, 01.11.1905

Mr. Boogie Woogie, ‘Pine Top’ Smith born

Pine Top Smith

Pine Top” Smith, a Black Boogie-Woogie musician, was born on this date in 1904.

Clarence "Pine Top” Smith was from Troy, AL, and was raised in nearby Birmingham.  A self-taught pianist, he began performing at area house parties in his mid-teens.  He worked for some time as an entertainer in Pittsburgh, then toured on the TOBA Vaudeville circuit.  After that, he accompanied Ma Rainey and Butterbeans & Susie.  On the advice of fellow pianist Cow Cow Davenport, Smith relocated to Chicago in 1928.

There he lived in the same apartment house as Meade "Lux" Lewis and Albert Ammons, a setting that resulted in frequent all-night jam sessions. While in Chicago, he also made a name for himself on the city's house-rent party and club circuits. In 1928, he recorded his influential "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie,” one of the first "boogie-woogie" style recordings to make a hit, cemented the name for the style. In the song, Pine Top talks over the recording, telling how to dance to the number. He said he originated the number at a house-rent party in St. Louis.

Among the driving forces behind the advent of boogie-woogie piano, Clarence "Pine Top" Smith ranks among the most influential blues figures of the 1920s. He was scheduled to make another recording session for Vocalion Records but was killed the night before, on March 15, 1929. Williams died from a gunshot wound in a dance-hall fight in Chicago. Sources differ as to whether he was the intended recipient of the bullet.

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