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Date this web site was last edited:  12/06/2015

 

 

 

 

 

Julian (JS) Smith - Biography

Opening Commentary - Palmer Moore, OFGC Organizer & true fan of JS

One of the highlights for me every year at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention held in Nashville is to see which "unknown" talent (that is either new to the convention, or that had been standing back in the shadows for awhile) decides to step up and be noticed.  Oh, it's wonderful to see the likes of Tommy Emmanuel, Doyle Dykes, Eddie Pennington and Richard Smith play their world class music - but, it just knocks me out when some "nobody" (that I knew of)  nervously steps up on our little stage in the Tuck Raisor Picker's Club Room and plays their hearts out...  And, knocks us right off of our chairs.  The audience reaction, screams, cheers, and "hoots 'n hollers" - and, the very satisfied look of achievement on the "no name" talent's face are priceless moments to remember for a lifetime.  Especially when that particular "unknown" then goes on to greater achievements.

Such is the case of the brilliant Julian Smith of Bowdon, Georgia.  It was at the 1998 CAAS Convention that the newly formed Georgia Fingerstyle Guitar Association (GFGA) encouraged their new found member from deep south Georgia to get up on the little stage in the Picker's Club Room and play.  All day and night for the entire week this little stage had one guitar player (or, a group of players) ripping off one thumb pickin' tune after another - and, some of it was out of this world from the likes of Bob Saxton, Billy Denham, Bud Linville, Clyde Kendrick, Moon Mullins, etc.  But, when this Julian Smith started to play (both a nylon electric and steel stringed Gibsons) we all just knew that here was a horse of a different color.  Within a couple of tunes he had won over a whole new set of fans.

To explain Julian's playing style and talent is to first suggest what it isn't:  It's not loud.  It's not flashy.  He doesn't dance around the stage like Elvis.  And, he doesn't attempt to blow his audience away with machine gun arpeggios - although, he does move right along.. 

What he does do best is "clean" picking - impeccably crisp and clean.  Almost scary to us wanna be players.  He does play with a thumb pick (has since birth) and he will mix up Chet oldies with Tommy Emmanuel newies, and throw in a few of his own tunes - however, all without any mistakes.. dints, dings, or muffled misses.  I am absolutely aghast every time I get to hear him play because it is downright spooky that anybody can play as many notes as he does - as clean as he does.  The man has a raw talent for playing guitar that has taken many years for the rest of us to find out about, and obviously the fortitude to practice hard and hone that talent into being one of the best pickers at the CAAS convention every year.  And, I am so happy that my Ohio Fingerstyle Guitar Club members are finally going to be able to hear him play in person on May 15th, 2004.

Biography

“…I grew up a very shy, introverted person; still am, except when I forget myself and let go…you see this guitar picking brings out an inner personality just waiting to escape.”  Julian Smith

Julian Smith was born, raised and still resides in Heard County - Ephesus , GA. That all started in 1946. His early musical influences were due to his father and mother teaching school at Ridgeway in the Forlona community, and his earliest recollections are of the musical groups that came to the school to perform.  His mother got him on stage at the age of 18 months and played a dust pan holding it like a guitar. Around age three he remembers groups coming to the school with mandolins, guitars, and bull basses tied to the top of the car.  They would play and give out Martha White Self Rising Flour.  At age five he started playing the ukulele.   His dad always had a guitar around the house since he played, and Julian would play along with him.  

His father showed him some chords and got him seriously started on guitar.   Other than that, he was totally self taught.  Chet Atkins once was quoted as joking around when somebody asked him if he had ever taken music lessons,  "Well, yes, but not enough to hurt ma' pickin'."  Well, in 1954 Julian took his one and only paid guitar lesson at age 8 from a traveling instructor at Ephesus Elementary.  He found it easier just to play by ear without using sheet music or tablature. 

At a young age he played with his two Uncles, one of which played the banjo and the other played the fiddle.  He listened to Wayne Rainy on WCKY Radio, Cincinnati , Ohio and the Grand Ole Opry on WSM Nashville, Tennessee. About this time he heard Chet Atkins on the radio and has spent the years since then developing his present style around Chet’s.

Is it any wonder that this man grew up loving music and playing the guitar.

While still in high school Julian started playing "out" with a popular local dance band, “The Collegiates”, and continued that musical relationship for 21 years.

Today, he plays a lot of church concerts.  He love to play the old gospel songs as they make for great arrangements on the acoustic guitar.   He has written and arranged a lot of gospel songs.   These very gospel songs have won three contests and as many guitars for him and put me on many stages throughout the country.  Songs like “The Unclouded Day”, “When They Ring The Golden Bells”, and one that he wrote, “King David’s Psaltery”.  

For the last five years he has been a featured main stage performer at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in Nashville , Tennessee .

Guitar Contest Victories 

1998 - International Thumbpicking Guitar Champion, Muhlenburg County Kentucky
1998 - International Freestyle Guitar Champion, 
Muhlenburg County Kentucky
2000 - National Fingerpick Guitar Champion, 
Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield , Kansas

Quotes

“The Perry Como of the guitar, says Tommy Emmanuel

" …one of the best guitarist on the scene today, and one of my favorites”  -  says Paul Yandell, Chet Atkins’ sideman and Nashville recording artist.

“…impeccable timing and smooth tone, with a touch remindful of Chet.”  -  says John Knowles, Chet Atkins’ transcriber and Grammy award winner.

“I’ve never heard one guitar sound that good!” - says Brenda Ruppe, of “The Ruppes”, Gospel vocal trio and Nashville recording artists.

“It’s just amazing what Julian does on the guitar” – says Kevin Williams, guitarist for  Bill Gatiher’s band.