Origins Of Rock And Roll – Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith   18 comments

It’s unusual for a musician to embrace his hit song to the extent that he even makes it part of his name. After all, it might serve to pave the way for becoming known as a “one-hit wonder”, normally something to be avoided. But when Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith realized he had a winner on his hands, he made it his signature tune.

When Smith got together with the Tennessee Ramblers in 1948, it probably didn’t occur to him that the song he was recording would become a big hit. And he certainly didn’t realize that it was an important – some say seminal – event in the beginnings of rock and roll. It was just one of lots of instrumental pieces he’d written through the years, but it had a driving, irresistible beat that foreshadowed a revolution in pop music.

Before he became a rock and roll pioneer, Smith was an influence in early radio, in management and as a performer, with musical talents that stretched to dixieland, gospel, and Western swing. He not only played the guitar, but also the fiddle and the banjo. (In fact, he later teamed up with Don Reno to write “Feudin’ Banjos”, the tune that was made famous as “Duelin’ Banjos” in the 1972 film Deliverance. As it turned out, producers had used the song without permission. Smith sued and won.)

His “Guitar Boogie” sold nearly three million copies – an enormous number for that era – and helped propel him to a long and successful career that included his own TV show. He wrote over 500 songs, including another Top Ten hit, “Boomerang”, and also supplied songs to many other singers. (One was Willie Nelson, who has been known to write a song or two himself.) Smith was also very active in producing records, and for many years had a professional sound studio that was used by the likes of Johnny Cash and James Brown.

Over the years, “Guitar Boogie” was recorded in various versions by many musicians, including immensely talented artists like Les Paul and Al Caiola, but the version that again stuck gold appeared in 1959. Frank Virtue and the Virtuoso Trio (later renamed The Virtues) recorded a new version, calling it “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”. Virtue was a talented musician who saw an opportunity in the song, and his vibrant electric guitar backed by the trio gave it a sound closer to what the kids were rocking to at the time. It became a hit all over again, solidifying its place in rock and roll history.

Arthur Smith – “Guitar Boogie”

The Virtues – “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”

 

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Posted May 24, 2007 by BG in Boomers, Country, Music, Nostalgia, Oldies, Retirement, Seniors

18 responses to “Origins Of Rock And Roll – Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith

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  1. Why does Arthur Smith get owner ship of this old blues lick, that was played years before he recorded his “Guitar Boogie”? Arthur has made millions and sued people for millions because they now use this old underlying lick for rock and blue tunes. Arthur sued Vonage phone company for using this in their Vonage song. Their version was from either the 5678’s from “Kill Bill 1”, or from an old “Led Zepplin” tune. They never heard Arthur Smith’s version of this, yet he sued them for millions and got it. What’s up with this?

  2. I am looking for anyone who knew my father from the Toledo Ohio area in the late 50’s. My father is William Poiry and on back of an old album a Mr. Poiry is mentioned in reference to the original boogie rif. My Dad states that the band that the rights were given to turned it into the “guitar boogie shuffle”. He now has severe arthritis in his hands and hasn’t been able to play much the last few years, but when I was young he played alot and was really good. The only real regret he has is not getting a copy of the signed contract due to he was told that a brother of his was trying to sign it away, behind his back and he did not want to have any family problems. My uncle died of cancer a few years ago and it would be nice to have the record straight. Dad is getting close to 80 and I would like to have some written proof of some kind, a letter from someone who knew, something to show that he indeed had been the real boogie man.

  3. You people don’t know what you’re talking about. Arthur (my granddad) wrote and recorded Guitar Boogie when he was 26 years old, about 60 some years ago. He is very smart and has always kept his copyrights current. And he didn’t have to SUE Vonage, they have payed him copyright dues for every year they’ve used the song in their commercials. Get it right people!

  4. i worked out the bill poiry boogie withe help of a freind who is now deceaced in about 1951 while in the army .around 1955 a producer named harry balk heard about it and came to my house with recording equip.and recorde it several times.he liked it and wanted it.but told me someone was claiming it as their own.i gave it to him,no charge.and i am not happy about this getting on the internet.to whom it may concern.bill poiry

  5. It was mentioned that Frank Virtue was the guitarist on “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” That’s wrong !!! My Father was the guitarist on the recording in 1959 and his name was Jimmy Bruno. It was his solo that made guitar boogie shuffle different than other artists who recorded the song. Mr. Virtue made a lot of money from that recording but he was NOT the guitarist on the recording. Mr. Virtue was a very smart business man but a musician he was fair at best. Mr. Virtue may have raped my Father out of royatties from that 1959 hit that was #5 on the billboard charts but he will not take away any credit due to my Father.

    Sincerely,
    Perry Bruno

  6. Thanks for the comment, Perry. You might very well be right about that, I don’t have any way to know for sure. My source was ALLMUSIC which said “With Virtue playing lead on a Gibson L5…”

  7. Can you tell me about this Aurthur Smith Merlin Country Squire? Age, site to see pictures? Here are links to my Guitar. PLEASE SEE THESE!!
    I need information on it if you have any or know where I can get some. I was total Mr. Smith design and promoted them for Lowe’s??? Please HELP

  8. please email me at mawmawdowling4@hotmail for picture links as it will not let me post!

  9. I heard Guitar Boogie, by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, on the radio yesterday. This reminded me that I had heard 40 or 50 years ago that the lead on this recording was played on a viola. Could this be right? I would appreciate an answer if someone knows about this.

  10. I have found an old copy of Aurthur (guitar boogie) Smith and his Crackerjacks playing Fiddle-Faddle. It is on a 78 rpm. flip side is Just looking, plus two more 78’s. I have no way to play them if any one is intrested let me know. from reading your comments it seems they would be better off with family. gail

  11. Gail;

    I have been transferring all types of recordings for folks for the past 20+ years. Among them, 78s. If you would like them transferred to any other format (CDs, Cassetes or Rel to Reel tapes) just get in touch with me.

  12. You right David!
    Reminds me of the court case between Albano Power and Michael Jackson. Only that Michael was found not guilty of plagiarism…
    Sometimes it’s nice to have money!?

  13. It’s still a nice right to teach beginner players.

  14. I would like to hear the IH Boogie by Arthur Smith. It was on a 10 inch LP, Fingers on Fire, way back when.

  15. Just picked up a 1954 Zenith Stereo Cabinet to play 78 rpm records, played my copy of Arthur Smith “Guitar Bogie / Boomerang” MGM-10293, “Great Stuff”, classic example of early Rock and Roll. Guitar Bogie / Boomerang was released in 1948 / 1949.

  16. Hi , i am looking for any information about Arthur smith when he played live on wspa radio. Does anyone have any of these. My mother use to play with his band on the radio . Her name was Mary Lou Morris.I have a picture of her with the band that was in the newspaper that my mom saved. I am looking for more pics of them and would really love to have the music with her playing with the band. I have looked all over and can’t find anything of if anyone knows where i can look. Thanks ,Debbie

  17. My dad had been upset with me for years because I wouldn’t believe his guitar abilities. When I was old enough to appreciate music, he had horrible arthritis. I love my dad and I love to listen to music. It’s to bad he didn’t get the proof of this work. All that matters to me is that I just believe him. I love you dad, your daughter. Becky. Daughter of Mr. William R. Poiry.

  18. Hi there to every one, for the reason that I am actually keen of reading this weblog’s post to be updated regularly. It consists of nice material.

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