When one sees the name G.E. Smith, the next phrase that pops into their mind is usually, "and the Saturday Night Live Band!" in a cheesy announcer voice. Love him or hate him, he was one of the longest running musicians on Saturday Night Live and one of the top guitarists in the United States.
G.E. Smith was born on January 27th, 1952 as George Edward Smith. Growing up in a small town - Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania - his first exposure was to the folk music common to that area. At an early age his musical abilities began to shine through. According to G.E., "I started playing guitar around age four, and started getting good at seven." 1. But something was coming that would change his life and musical habits.
In 1963, G.E. heard "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks on the radio. This peaked his interest in the electric guitar, and for his birthday that year his mother bought him a 1952 Fender Telecaster.2 At the tender age of 11 he began playing as a semi-professional in various gigs, including a local polka band.
G.E. knew that he wanted more than his local hometown could give him, and in the early 70's he moved to New Haven, Connecticut. He quickly established himself as a top-notch musician, and joined the legendary Scratch Band. For the next several years he toured up and down the east coast of the U.S. Then he got his first big break. Dan Hartman, fresh off his hit,"Instant Replay," hired G.E. to front his band for a "lip-sync" tour of the U.S. and Europe. 1
Upon G.E.'s return, he met Gilda Radner and became the guitarist for her 1979 Broadway show "Gilda Live." Gilda and G.E. quickly became friends, and were married in 1980. This period was also significant for G.E. muscially. He began working with Daryl Hall and John Oates which he continued through 1985.3 He also appeared on The Tonight Show playing along side David Bowie.
G.E continued to build his musical skills and repitoire. In 1985 when Hall and Oates decided to take a break from the industry, Lorne Michaels called G.E. and asked him to become the musical director for Saturday Night Live.
"The way it happened was, I knew Howard Shore, the show's original musical director, and producer Lorne Michaels, from my stint with Gilda. In '85, when Lorne returned to produce the show again, he asked me to be the musical director. And I was thrilled to take it." 1
Throughout the next ten years, G.E. led an impressive group of musicians and played along side greats such as Eddie Van Halen, Keith Richards, Al Green, Buddy Guy and others. His musical work led him to win an Emmy in 1988, and a 1996 Grammy-nominated album "Buddy Guy - Live CD" with G.E. and the Saturday Night Live band. He also wrote the now famous Wayne's World theme song with Mike Myers.1
G.E. didn't just limit himself to the Saturday Night Live band. Throughout the 1980s and '90s he played on hundreds of albums for such artists at Tom Waits, Mick Jagger, and Tracy Chapman. He also toured with Bob Dylan for four years. G.E. served as the musical director for the Rhythm and Blues Foundation as well as the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in the early to mid '90s. 3
Currently G.E. continues playing music recording albums under his own label Green Mirror Music. G.E. established Green Mirror in 1991 after unsuccesfully trying to get a deal with any of the major record labels whom he had worked with through other artists. He continues playing with other artists and working closely with several bands including The Muddy Waters Tribute, and bands honoring Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Kennedy Center Honors.
The Scratch Band
- The Scratch Band - Big Sound
- In The World - Mirage
- Get A Little - Liberty
- Incense, Herbs & Oils - Green Mirror Music
- A Private Collection - Green Mirror Music
- G.E. Smith Official Biogrpahy - Green Mirror Music (greenmirror.com/gebio.html)
- G.E. Smith Fan Site - (geocities.co.jp / MusicStar-Guitar/6652/bio.html)
- Blues Reviews: G.E. Smith (bluesreviews.com/Features/gesmithfeat.html)