Eugene Smiley Sr.
I was born in New Orleans, LA, and raised by grandparents in a small town of Brookhaven, MS, and by even more relatives in Kansas City, MO. In our family, music was an everyday part of our family values. At an early age I was involved in music and loved it! My Aunt Hazel and my Uncle Charles were my childhood mentors. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. My father was a gospel singer. He sang with a group called The Pilgrim Travelers. They followed their dreams and became successful doing what they loved to do.
I was playing the piano when I was very young. I learned it from my Aunt Hazel. I played piano for the youth church choir and, as I got older, I began listening to Blues and R&B. My parents didn’t care for that music very much, but I did it anyway. They had to face it, it was a part of my destiny. Although they didn’t try to stop me, they would always tell me that kind of music was the Devil’s music and I would suffer and pay a lot of dues. They were right! When they would leave me home alone, I had that piano jumping. I’d listen to songs on the radio, pick up the chord progressions and play the songs. And it was easy. I found R&B to be more challenging because in almost every song, the pattern was different, whereas in Blues the patterns were very simple and boring after you’ve played a couple of songs. It didn’t keep my attention like R&B.
In high school, I played piano for most of the R&B vocalists that were performing in talent shows and contests. I graduated from Alexander High School in May 0f 1960. I attended Metropolitan Junior College, in Kansas City, MO, from 1961 thru 1963. I got married and worked at Waid’s Restaurant, which was a chain organization. Started as a bus boy in 1962 and in 1965 I was given an award for being the first Black Manager in the Greater Kansas City Area. I was not impressed by the award, although I loved the people that I worked with. But I knew there was something missing in my life. Deep in my heart, I wanted a better education and I wanted to check out my chances in the music industries. I wasn't satisfied.
In 1963, I met James and Tutty Gatson and began hanging with them every chance I got. They were doing exactly what I wanted to do! They had a very popular band called The Derby’s. They were playing the local clubs and also playing behind the artists that came to perform in Kansas City; groups like The Impressions, The Falcons, and artists like Johnny Taylor, Sam & Dave, Sam Cooke, and so many others. They're the ones that opened the doors for me.
Tutty taught me guitar and gave me my first gig. I felt that I had a chance to step into the spotlights and become a performing artist. I began performing in some of the local clubs and also some smaller towns not too far from home. My first professional show was with Dionne Warwick. I open the show with two songs, ”Mustang Sally” and ”I Found a Love”; originally by Wilson Pickett and the Falcons. The audience gave me a standing ovation and wanted me to sing another song. Well, that didn't turn out so good. When I walk back out on the stage, the band started playing a song by Jackie Wilson “Work Out”. All of a sudden - when I look out at the audience and saw all those people yelling and screaming - it scared me so bad I forgot the name of the song I was singing, forgot the entire lyrics to the song, and I was shaking so bad Tutty had to help me off stage! I really don’t know what caused that to happen but I will never forget that one. That was a learning experience. It never happened again during my early years.
In 1967 The Chi-lites, a very popular vocal group from Chicago, came to Kansas City to perform at the Town Hall Ballroom. The Promoter, Willie Cyrus added me with my vocal group (The Delmonties) to perform also. After the performance, we hooked up with the Chi-lites and had breakfast together. That’s when I met and got acquainted with Eugene Record, lead vocalist, writer, arranger for Brunswick Records. He played guitar but never performed with it. He invited me with my group to come to Chicago and audition at Brunswick Records.
We went to Chicago, did the audition, and were accepted. I signed a five- year recording contract. In October of 1968 I moved to Chicago. After we recorded our first 45 single, we became known as The Visitors. We recorded on the Dakar Record Label under the management of Mr. Carl Davis. Our first and best seller was “Until You Came Along” (which became No. 1 on the R&B charts and stayed in Jet Magazine for 9 months) and “I’m In Danger”. My career seemed to have gotten off to a good start. I felt like I was on top of the world! I remember Carl Davis telling me that it doesn’t last forever. "You’ll be on top as long as someone is spending money to keep you on top. That is the way the music business operates." Carl also told me that he would teach me everything that I needed to know to become successful in the music industry. He taught me well. These were the fun times.
In 1973, after my contract expired, I decided to go on the road as a guitar player and vocalist. During this time period I had the opportunity to play and perform with such greats as; Al Green, Bobby Womack, The Stylistics, The Chi-lites, also the late greats; Johnny Taylor, Albert King, Little Milton, ZZ Hill, Rufus Thomas, just to mention a few.
I decided to return to Kansas City in 1974 to finish college and raise my kids. At this time in my life, with the knowledge I had gained from my experience and in addition to remembering my conversations with Mr. Carl Davis, I knew what to expect in the music business. I went on to Platte College to earn a Business Degree and also attended ECPI to earn a degree in Computer Programming.
Then, in 1976, I met Keith Montgomery (music arranger and writer) and Albert White (a song writer). Together we established K City Record Company. We produced “The Essence of Love”, our first recording, along with “We’re Lovers Day and Night” and “Yes it’s you” which made it to number 2 on the national charts. We then recorded “I Want to Share my Love” and“Marry Me”. We never released this next 45 because of the change in the music industry. It was the disco era and programmed music. During this period, I faded out of the music scene and remained inactive until 1987.
When I started playing again I went back to my roots and played Gospel. I gradually worked my way back into Blues, R&B, and Jazz. I played with some of the locals here in Kansas City.
Around 1992 an old friend of mine from Memphis, Mr. Mayfield Towns, came to me and asked me if I would like to put together a Blues Band with a strong horn section. I decided this could be something I would enjoy! He and I then talked with Johnny Copowy, a great guitarist and front man for the band. Johnny had excellent communication skills. Together we put together a strong Blues Band consisting of black and white musicians. We named the band The BWB Show Band. BWB was short for black and white musicians playing together. The original members of the band were:
Mayfield Towns -band leader, arranger, trumpet, Alto & Tenor saxEugene Smiley -writer, arranger, vocals, Rhythm guitarDirector Johnny Copowy- vocals, Lead guitar, communications, Front manMike Kovac - drumsReggie May - trombone, choreography, wardrobeCalvin Whitmore- Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone saxKim Peeler - bass guitarJeff Lucas - keyboards, vocals, writer, arranger, set coordinator
This was one of the Nation's finest Blues Bands of this decade: It had the sound, the look, the showmanship, and filled the stage with excitement every performance! After getting off to a great start, in 1994 our band leader sadly died from cancer. We were surprised and hurt. It happened so fast.
After healing from the death of our friend and leader, we decided to regroup. We added a new member, Shun Cassidy to replace Mayfield. And we still had the BIG sound. One night we were playing at the Blue Café in Ocean Beach, CA, and a lady came to me and asked if I would let her seven year old son, who played the harmonica, sit in with us. Of course I said yes. Man, what a big surprise! This kid blew my mind and everybody else that was in the club! The next weekend we were playing the same gig and this kid walks in again. Only this time he had televison stations Channel 4 and Channel 9 with him. They filmed him playing with us. That was the start of a beautiful relationship between that BWB Show Band and this kid!
We had a meeting and decided on adding him to the group. Now we were Brody Buster and the BWB Show Band. Together we took it to another level! Brody and I hooked up with a manager that worked for Universal Studios in Hollywood. This opened a lot of new doors for us. We did television performances; Jay Leno Show, CNN, Dateline, The BBC, Good Morning America, Crook & Chase Show, Murray Povitch Show, Good Morning Japan. We also played at the White House for the Clinton Administration, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV, with Jerry Seinfeld, The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA, House of the Blues, Los Angeles, CA, BB King's in Hollywood, CA, and Manning’s Car Wash in New York. We played at many Festivals across the country. We even did a cross country tour in 1996 and 1997. We were very busy and enjoying it.
I had to slow down in 1999 because of health problems. I began to have breathing problems. I still stayed with Brody until 2002, and I hoped by then he had learned everything that I could teach him musically. He was just at the age to begin college. Brody and I will always be close. He is a part of my life and history. I don't doubt we'll be on stage somewhere together again down the road.
Recently I decided to ressurect K City Records. This is my retirement hobby to play with. I will continue to perform at a lesser pace, write and record music, produce other musicians, and enjoy the many blessing that God has given me. My career has given me more pleasures than downfalls. Athough, at one point I really paid some dues just like my grandparents told me I would. Overall - it was worth every minute.
Today, I’m retired and I have my own personal recording studio. It's incredible to be able to spend my days writing songs, arranging music, and laying tracks. Friends come over and jam and record this and that. nd I have another CD in the mix right now!
My kids are also very talented and seem to spend even more time in the studio recording their music than I do. I am honored to have them following in my foot steps. There’s an old saying “the apple don’t fall too far from the tree”. My concern here is the type of music and the focus they have. They sometimes lose me it seems because I don’t seem to get the point when it comes to Rap. But I’m satisfied with their interest and creativity. They are already recording young artists and starting to see those artists go on to obtain recording contracts with major labels.
Over all, music has been good to me. I’ve had my share of ups and downs personally and financially. I've paid my dues. I’ve also had a lot of fun on the road to the top. Some of us never made it but we enjoyed all the pleasures that came with these experiences.
May God Bless You,
Eugene Smiley, Sr.
|POSTED BY: disturbed3003||POSTED ON: 24 Feb 2011 07:22 PM|
The BWB Show Band will delight you with their terrific Blues CD, “This Time I Got the Blues.” This album has an outstanding collection of songs that is genuine about its Bluesy roots and keeps you entertained with its energetic passion. Not only are there great vocals, guitar, bass, piano/organ, and drums but you will also hear a bright and crisp horn section. The song, “Somebody lied,” is embedded with soulful lyrics that are sung with a fiery style. The title track, “This Time I Got the Blues,” features smooth vocals that are complemented by the silky horn riffs and blistering instruments. “Slippin and sliding,” is a song that shows just what kind of fun and vibrant style this band has to offer. You will thoroughly enjoy the excellent mix of Blues on the album, “This Time I Got the Blues.”
-Diane and the RadioIndy.com Reviewer Team
|POSTED BY: radioindy||POSTED ON: 21 Feb 2011 09:01 PM|