Bio

One of the most in demand blues / rock guitarists in the world is a mysterious character who goes by the name of G.E. Smith. Millions of TV viewers know his face-and the shock of unruly blond ponytail that was always falling across it-from his tenure stint of fronting the Saturday Night Live Band.

For G.E. (George Edward) Smith, a soulful guitarist, composer, singer, and bandleader, it all began in rural Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, where he was just about born with a guitar in his hand. “I started playing around the age of four, and started getting good at seven,” he says. “Eventually, the girlfriend of one of my Uncles bought me a Martin, a real good guitar, in 1959. Then when folk the music scene came around and Bob Dylan was first performing, I got really into that.” By chance he was attending a taping of the television show ‘Hootenanny’ in Princeton, New Jersey, and saw the legendary Odetta and Josh White perform, further inciting his musicality.

On his 11th birthday, G.E.’s mother bought him his first electric guitar, a Fender Telecaster, a model that dated his birth year-1952. (“I still have that guitar, and there’s no sound that I can’t find in it.”) By then he was supporting himself as a musician, and playing in numerous situations–Pocono’s resorts, high school dances, you name it–often with musicians more than twice his age.

After accomplishing all he could in the bar-band scene as a teenager, Smith left the Pocono’s to conquer the Connecticut. He quickly established himself as a “top gun” guitarist and hooked up with the legendary Scratch band, which scorched clubs up and down the East Coast during the mid-70’s.

In late 1977, G.E. got his first break in the form of Dan Hartman, fresh off his hit “Instant Replay”. Dan hired G.E. to front his band for a “lip-synch tour” of Europe and the U.S. Upon his return to the East Coast, Smith moved to Manhattan and became the guitarist for Gilda Radner’s 1979 Broadway show “Gilda Live”. Radner and Smith became an item and shortly after married.

During that period of Smith’s life another break took place when the blue-eyed soulsters Daryl Hall and John Oates came calling. Not only was Smith hired to play lead guitar for Hall and Oates, he stayed for six years (1979-1985) constantly touring and recording with them, racking up hit after hit with songs like Private Eyes, Man Eater, Kiss on My List, and others. “It was insanely fun, “ he recalls. “We were so big that one year we decided it would be fun to perform during summer –all year round! We toured the northern hemisphere in the summer and the southern hemisphere in the during America’s winter.”

Another fortuitous event was the Live Aid and Farm Aid benefit concerts in early 85’. I ended up being the house band backing Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and whoever didn’t have a band.

G.E.’s hard work earned him a commanding position in the music industry as a first call blues/rock guitarist, sought out by major recording artists like Jagger, who, shortly after Live Aid, called Smith to work with him on his first solo album, She’s the Boss. (Smith also played on Jagger’s Primitive Cool.) During this period Smith also did a few one-off recordings and concerts with David Bowie, and Peter Wolfe, among other notables.

When Hall & Oates decided to take a long break from the music scene, Smith was chosen to be 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,” says Smith. “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.”

Leading the SNL band for 10 years (1985 – 1995) – it was arguably the best late-night band on television at the time – and G.E. won an Emmy. “I definitely grew a lot from playing with those world-class musicians, especially the horn section. I really had to learn to play in time and in tune. It was a great education.”

The SNL roster of guest musicians read like a Who’s Who of contemporary music: Eddie Van Halen, Keith Richards, Rickie Lee Jones, Al Green, Bryan Ferry, et al. In fact, many of the best musical (surprise) moments came when G.E. invited guitar heroes to play with the band, unannounced. Eddie Van Halen was the first, followed by an amazing roster that included David Gilmour, Lonnie Mack, Dave Edmonds, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, and others. The Buddy Guy visit eventually resulted in the GE’s 1996 Grammy-nominated Buddy Guy – Live CD, with G.E. and the SNL band. “I’ve been so lucky to get into these fantasy situations… that happened over and over on “SNL”. I got to play with everybody.

SNL also provided Smith with a songwriting opportunity when Mike Myers asked him to help write a tune. “Mike had this bit, called Wayne’s World, and he needed a theme song. Aerosmith was the musical guest that week, so Mike and I sat down and wrote a song that Aerosmith could sing and play along with.” Of course the “bit” became a hit film, the soundtrack (and song) a platinum-selling smash hit.

Even more amazing, in the midst of his SNL tenure Smith toured for almost four years with the legendary Bob Dylan. “I would fly home from various places on the globe to do the SNL show,” says G.E. “Both Bob and Lorne were very understanding about giving me the time that I needed. I would work with Bob during the week, then come home for Saturday’s show.” This setup was a true test of his stamina. “During one particularly tough period, I played a stadium concert in Sao Paulo, Brazil, flew back to New York for SNL, then flew to Rio to play several concerts with Bob, flew back that Saturday, then flew to London for a week of concerts with Bob, came back to New York, then met the band for concerts in Paris.”

During his SNL years Smith was also honored to be the musical director for special events such as the 1988 Emmy Awards, the 1993 Rhythm and Blues Foundation Awards and the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden. The latter event was another of those “fantasy situations” that G.E. keeps getting involved in. “The rehearsals for that Dylan concert you wouldn’t believe. I was rehearsing with George Harrison in the morning, Eric Clapton in the afternoon, and Lou Reed at night. One afternoon, rehearsing the finale, I had Harrison, Tom Petty, Clapton, Neil Young, Dylan and Roger McGuinn all lined up and I’m saying, ‘OK, George you sing here, Eric you play now, Bob you come in here.’ Smith also has written with his friend and fellow musician Jimmy Buffett. Six String Music appears on Buffett’s album Fruitcakes.

Smith acted as musical director at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum Concert in Cleveland.

Following his departure from Saturday Night Live in 95′, Smith and his wife, singer/songwriter Taylor Barton created a critically acclaimed boutique label called Green Mirror Music. They are in their ninth year, releasing rootsy blues, neo-pop.

Smith released his electrifying, high octane CD, Incense Herbs, and Oils in 1998. Between live dates, he has been the musical director and bandleader honoring Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Chuck Berry at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. He also led bands for The Muddy Waters Tribute, and The Mark Twain Awards honoring Richard Pryor, Jonathon Winters, Carl Rainer and most recently Lorne Michaels. Smith has kept a steady presence on the national scene. Is he too busy? Smith laughs and says, “I haven’t slept since the sixties.”

Another highlight of Smith’s history was hosting an interactive show on the Electric guitar over the internet, on NPR, and a live presentation at for Smithsonian Institute.

1999-2000 brought Smith back to SNL, appearing in the 25th Anniversary show and other guest appearances. He was featured on VH1 in the history of SNL, and even hosted the New Year’s Eve bash inaugurating the new Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History, (formerly the Haydn Planetarium).

During 2004-2006, GE raised the stakes for the Cleveland Browns where he headed up home games for the team with his music, rocking the NFL with classic rock and his mantra, “Brownstown.”

2007, catapulted a new DVD, titled 50 Watt Fuse, which premiered at the Mill Valley film Festival to a standing ovation. Co-produced, written and directed by his wife singer-songwriter, Taylor Barton, it features GE in concert and in cameo with David Lindley, Michael J Fox, Mike Myers, Hall & Oates, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Buffett, Mike Myers, Hot Tuna and Dylan. It celebrated the launch of the new GE Smith signature Fender telecaster, which hit the stores in 2007.

He spent a few years working with esteemed financial guru/rocker Roger McNamee and their band, Moonalice. Electrified: The Guitar Revolution hits airways this August for the new Smithsonian network.

GE joined Roger Waters 2010 WALL LIVE toured the world three times and has just celebrated the 40th SNL anniversary where he received an EMMY awaed as bandleader.

Smith .has played with the broadest possible spectrum of artists, from Red Buttons to Allen Ginsberg, from Desmond Child to Bob Dylan and Roger Waters; all points in between. “I’ve had an incredible ride in the world of Rock N’ Roll and American music,” says Smith, looking back over his career. GE Smith is one of the most brilliant guitarist’s out there.

G.E. SMITH

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

Produced by GE Smith

1981                In The World              Atlantic Records                                  WTG-1G038

1992                Get A Little                  Liberty Records                                   CDP799955 2

1998                GE Smith                    Incense, Herbs, and Oils                     GM-2674

1999                Muddy Water’s Tribute- Aired on PBS,                     -musical director

2006                GE Smith                    50 Watt Fuse   CD/DVD                     Green Mirror

Collaborations & Soundtracks

1978                Dan Hartman               Instant Replay                         Columbia 35641

1979 – 1985 Hall and Oates   Voices                                                             RCA-3646

Private Eyes-Private Eyes                    RCA-44545

H2O-Kiss On my List                                    RCA-44545

Big Bam Boom-Man Eater                  RCA-66937

1985 – 87        Mick Jagger                She’s The Boss                                   Atlantic-82553

Primitive Cool                                   Atlantic-82554

1990                Tracey Chapman        Crossroads-Crossroads                      Elektra-60888

1993                Wayne’s World           (Platinum) Wayne’s World                 WB-26805

1995                Jimmy Buffett Fruitcakes-Six String Music                          MCA-11043

1996 Grammy nominee Buddy Guy & G.E. Smith Live      The Real Deal  Silvertone

2000                High Fidelity   played original music              Walt Disney    Pictures

2007                The Departed               music by Howard Shore

2013                The WALL LIVE,         Roger Waters

15 Comments

  1. Hi,

    My wife and I were at the Detroit area “The Wall Live” show. Not real close to the stage (off to the side). But close to the end of the show when you guys were all out at the edge of the stage. I recognized you from your SNL days. So ere I am reading up on you. Quite an extensive career. I must have been quite the honor to be on the Water’s tour. I have seen a lot of shows in my 50 years. And I have been quoted to say that that show was the musical event of my lifetime. The isn’t even one of my favorite Floyd albums. But I am ruined, I will never see a show that will top that.
    My son has been taking guitar lessons for the last couple years. Its still a little bit of a fight to get him to practice. So he’s getting a new acoustic electric guitar for Christmas. I hoping that will build his interest a little more. Any suggestions?
    Rock On
    Wil

  2. Just wanted to send a note to G.E..My sister & I saw you at Bergen Pac w/Hot Tuna.I just have to say that I am honored to here you play.After reading your bio,it enhances the feeling alittle more.KEEP ROCKIN!!!

  3. Hello GE BENNETT FROM CONTINENTAL AIRLINES IVE SEEN YOU FROM AFAR MOSCOW AND ONTO BUDAPEST AND WILL CATCH UP IN NY BEST REGARDS

  4. Hi Goerge..don’t know if you remember me Beverly Bolcar Koberlein…I was catching up on your career in the ‘remember Strousburg group….just wanted to say hi and congrats on a very impressive career !

  5. Man i remember seeing you play on SNL and think to myself who is this guy.
    Your ability is uncompromised.After reading your bio i feel i have neglected not knowing more about
    you. As a player myself in New York during the late seventies with a band called Andy Gootch out
    of Millbrook New York i thought i knew about most of the great sideman from Steve Khan to
    Nils Lofgren but i was wrong.Of course Jorma had just come out with Hot Tuna which was an incredible band.
    i played with Larry LaFalce from Bull Angus, Black Sabbaths opening act
    and Steve n Bill Petrone.Many a nights spent in clubs.
    Its time to score some history and get caught up with the music you have left
    for others to search out and explore.I new the face and the choice equipment but never your name.
    Glad i am getting this opportunity to reconnect and listen to your incredible ability.
    Remembering guys like yourself Walter Fagan, Roy Buchanan, Les Dudeck and Roy Clark
    sure opens ones heart.Of course we all learn mountains of stuff from the great Jimmy Page.
    There is something about the heart of a guitarists that resonates through his music.
    Peace

    Brett Beaudette
    Corona Ca

    • Yo G.E. its T-bone Wolk’s cusin, Tyler, i played a few set with you at his benefit concert in NY here’s the link to the vid of led zeppelin’s rock ‘n’ roll

  6. I met G.E. years ago at his house in New York, to give an estimate on some work for him. I knew who he was, his talent, his accomplishments. G.E. is one of those people who made it, yet still has his feet on the ground. He is a super person that gives his all to his family. Possibly a different side of him that most don’t get the opportunity to see, but those who do, have the highest regard for him. Good for you G.E. Wishing you all the sucess in the world, you’ve earned it, desere it and know how to handle it.

    Ron G
    Northern Michigan

  7. Hey GE,
    Had to read up on you. Been watching Bob Dylan’s 1990 birthday concert over and over and you are in EVERY shot. Finally had to find out ‘who is that guy?’. Turns out i also saw you playing The Wall in Oslo 1st april 2011. Great stuff !!
    Felix.
    Oslo, Norway

  8. I met GT in the Vet hospital in East Hampton, NY with his wife Taylor and one of their cats who was not feeling to well. I remember that the cat was so uncomfortable and GT was trying to comfort his pet, then it bit him in his hand and my heart just about came out of my mouth. All that went through my head was “was OMG, his playing hand”. I was the tech for Dr Teretsky at the time. GT was a real trooper and played that night with a bandage on his hand. I know because I saw him on SNL that night. God Bless you GT and Taylor. Wish you both all the best.

  9. man you are one of the best players I’ve ever seen wish you would get to Houston and play a little deadhead/new monsoon/new riders/david nelson band its a whole in the wall but we are die hard jam band people (just a bunch of old hippies (and I mean old) if you’ve ever heard of a chick named Carolyn Wonderland that’s where she got her start now Dylan got a cd called Alcohol and salvation and was impressed enough to want to meet her and now she is managed be Ray Benson from a sleep at the wheel check her out so try to get to H’ton some time Dianne Taylor

  10. Toad’s Place seemed to be an endless musical trip, a smorgasbord. Oh but I was so much younger then!!

    • Willie – Saw you with Southside and the Poor Fools at Wolftrap in february. You were awesome – a privildge to watch you perform. I hope you can guest for Willie Nile on May 7th at Jammin Java in Vienna VA, Would be treat. Thank you

  11. Hey G E, Just read your bio. What a great story. I saw you at at Hall & oats show in 1979 in Dallas Tx at a very small venue. You got on my table and played like a crazy man. What a great show. Years later i watched as you made your way through many different bands. Thanks for sharing your great talent.

  12. G. E., met you a few years ago at Stephen Talkhouse. Was there with Dan Rizzie who I met when I was flying for Jimmy Buffett. I was completely blown away by your set and your signature model Tele. You were kind enough to acquire for Dan, two of them, one black and one honey blonde. I ended up with the honey blonde and it is far and away my favorite electric guitar (and I have some nice ones). I will never part with it. Thank you. Bill Howell

  13. All of you guys are so nice. I am so glad you are reading my website. To Bill Howell, I totally remember. You had a rockin vibe and a sweet haircut. Stay that way. To DG in Vermont, I love that vet. I was so scared. You made it better, stay that way. To Brad Alexander, rock on man, rock on.

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