b. USA, d. poss. c.1964, USA. Little is known of Smith’s origins. He played violin and came to prominence leading a dance band in the years immediately following World War I. He made many records, mainly for Victor Talking Machine Company, and also played prestigious venues including New York’s Plaza Hotel and Montreal’s Mount Royal Hotel. While in the latter city he broadcast on CKAC and made his last recordings there in 1925, having failed to adapt to the peppier style of his competitors. Around that same year he brought his band from Canada to London, England for an engagement. The last few years of Smith’s recording career were with Brunswick Records.
Drawing his repertoire from popular songs of the day and Broadway hits, among many songs Smith recorded are ‘I’ve A Shooting Box In Scotland’ (very possibly the first recording of a Cole Porter song), ‘Alice Blue Gown’ (by Joseph McCarthy - Harry Tierney), ‘Driftwood’ (Gus Kahn -Lou Gold), ‘Poor Butterfly’ (Raymond Hubbell -John Golden), ‘For Me And My Gal’ (George W. Meyer - Edgar Leslie - E. Ray Goetz), ‘Head Over Heels’ (Jerome Kern), ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows’ (Harry Carroll), ‘Love Nest’ (Louis Hirsch), ‘Nashville Nightingale’ (George Gershwin), ‘Rose Room’ (Art Hickman -Walter Smith), ‘Umbrellas To Mend’ (Mel B. Kaufman), ‘Missouri Waltz’ (James Royce Sherman-John Valentine Eppel), and ‘Three O’ Clock In The Morning’ (Julian Robledo), the last two big sellers for Smith in, respectively, 1917 and 1922.
Sidemen in Smith’s orchestra, some of whom played solos, include pianists Harry Akst, Don Liebersfeld, Jules Ruben and Hugo Frey, many of the latter’s songs being recorded by the band, cornetist Ernest Pechin, trombonists Bill Hall, Sam Lewis and Harry Raderman, saxophonists Jack Wasserman and Rudy Wiedoeft, and drummer Teddy Brown. The latter remained in the UK in 1925 becoming popular in variety theatres, usually playing xylophone, exhorting audiences to join in by hoarsely declaiming the one word he spoke on stage: ‘Sing!’. Among many vocalists who recorded with Smith, most of them studio singers, were Elsie Baker, Henry Burr, Arthur Fields, Ruby Green, Charles Harrison, Charles Hart, Lewis James, Al Johnson, Harry Macdonough, Billy Murray and Elliott Shaw. Smith, who appears to have lost heavily in the 1929 Wall Street crash, moved to Florida where he is believed to have worked as a doorman, although his final days are just as shrouded in mystery as are his beginnings.