Roy Smeck, “The Wizard of the Strings” was born on this day 116 years ago, on February 6, 1900.
Roy Smeck rose to prominence in the 1920s with vaudeville performances playing his plethora of stringed instruments, including an eight string Hawaiian guitar known as an octo-chorda. Riding the Hawaiian music wave of the 1920s and 1930s, he made his great fame in the budding field of radio, becoming known as the “Wizard of the Strings”, and records by his ensembles sold huge numbers. In 1926, Smeck had the distinction of appearing in one of Warner Brothers first Vitaphone short sound films, called Roy Smeck: His Pastimes. He would continue to make numerous other filmed appearances over the course of the next decade. In the 1930s, Smeck’s fame was such that he played at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural ball and King George VI’s coronation review in 1937. By the 1950s, however, Smeck had slowed down, though he still made occasional performances. In 1985, Smeck appeared in Wizard of the Strings, an Academy award nominated documentary about his career and life (which is a great film, by the way, and I recommend seeing it.) Roy Smeck died April 9, 1994 at the age of ninety-four.
Homestead 16002 was recorded April 3, 1929 in New York for the Plaza Music Company by Roy Smeck’s Trio. It was also issued on Banner 6368. The vocal on both sides is by Scrappy Lambert, under name Larry Holton, one of his many pseudonyms. The Homestead label was sold by the Chicago Mail Order Company, and was made from Plaza/ARC masters, much like Sears, Roebuck’s Conqueror label.
First, Smeck’s trio plays a dandy little version of the 1929 hit song, “A Precious Little Thing Called Love”, the theme song of The Shopworn Angel.
The next tune is a Hawaiian one through and through, titled “My Hawaiian Queen”.