(June 11, 1904 – March 15, 1929)
I always thought the name Pinetop came from the pine top of a piano. But the man they call Pinetop Smith got his nickname from his love of climbing tall trees. It was the piano though, that made his nickname famous. He was born Clarence Smith, worked for a spell as an accompanist for blues legends like Ma Rainey and Butterbeans and Susie. Until he became a blues legend himself. His recording “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” is the first on wax to feature the words boogie woogie. Recorded in 1929, it was a massive hit.But he didn’t catch much of that fame himself. See, the night before he was set to go back in the studio, he died when he caught a bullet intended for another man. He was just 25 years old.
But the legacy of Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie only gained momentum. Tommy Dorsey made the song really famous by arranging it for big. Dorsey sold a lot of records—but “Boogie Woogie” was his best seller—moving over 5 million copies before and after WWII. And how bout this? Recognize it? Yep, Ray Charles took “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” messed it around a bit, and out came “Mess Around.”
That’s enough from the rest of ‘em. Why don’t we hear from Pinetop himself? From 1929: Pinetop Smith with his “Boogie Woogie.”