Stuff Smith

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame



Stuff Smith

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Stuff Smith (August 14, 1909 - September 25, 1967)

Stuff Smith was undoubtedly one of the great swing violinists of the early 20th century. He was an African-American, born Hezekiah Leroy Smith, in Ohio; his nickname came from his habit of referring to other people whose name he couldn't remember as "Stuff".

Smith was born August 14, 1909 in Portsmouth, Ohio and grew up in nearby Massillon and Cleveland where he absorbed the influence of jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. He started his career in the Alphonso Trent orchestra in Dallas in 1926 and formed his own band in 1930. Smith achieved stardom while leading small groups at the Onyx Club in New York City. After being signed to Vocalion in 1936, he had a big hit with "I'se A Muggin'" and was billed as Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys. He recorded for Vocalion in 1936, Decca in 1937 and Varsity in 1939-1940. Smith cited Louis Armstrong as his primary influence and inspiration to play jazz, and like Armstrong, was a vocalist as well as an instrumentalist.

He is credited as being the first violinist to use electric amplification techniques on a violin. He contributed to the song "It's Wonderful" (often performed by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald throughout their careers.

Smith moved to Denmark in 1965 and performed throughout Europe until his death on September 25, 1967 in Munich Germany. He is buried at Klakring Cemetery in Jutland, Denmark.

Stuff Smith was inducted into The National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2014.