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Published on Feb 6, 2015
SMOKEY HORMEL quit music before his career began, but a job washing dishes in Los Angeles in the early '80s unexpectedly brought him back to the guitar and eventually to playing on some of the most acclaimed and highest selling records of the past thirty years.
Though he was raised in a salon-style artistic household and studied guitar as a teenager under Western Swing legend Jimmy Wyble, Smokey decided as a young adult to give up music to become an actor in New York. After some dedicated time of formal training he moved back to Los Angeles and began picking up extra work to pay his rent - a job at Millie's Cafe got Smokey to pick up the guitar again and later paved the way for him to join LA punk/rockabilly greats The Blasters and to tour with local punk legends X. Since the early '90s Smokey has been working non-stop by touring and recording with Beck, Norah Jones, and Tom Waits, by writing and recording on numerous Rick Rubin productions, and by leading his own Western Swing and Brazilian Forró ensembles.
I visited Smokey at his New Jersey home to discuss his unusual artistic upbringing, his early Western Swing roots, running in the mid '80s LA punk/rockabilly scene, and his long-lasting collaborations with Beck, Rick Rubin, and Johnny Cash. The interview is accompanied by a performance from Smokey's Round Up at Sunny's Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
About Liner Note Legends:
Liner Note Legends is a documentary web series profiling veteran session musicians whose playing has been heard by everyone, but who still may not be household names. They are the players behind the scenes, appearing on hundreds of records with everyone from Elvis Presley to Miles Davis to Michael Jackson. They have the unique ability to fit into any musical genre, and likewise this series will attempt to give credit to the men and women who played on records of all musical styles, from experimental jazz to #1 pop records.
Previous episodes have featured keyboardist Bernie Worrell, drummer Steve Gadd, Nashville legend Charlie McCoy, Motown / LA studio veteran Ms. Bobbye Hall, and New York jazz and rock horn player and multireedist Howard Johnson.