|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
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.
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.”
Smith was born, raised and still resides in
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
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
father showed him some
chords and got him seriously started on guitar.
Other than that, he was totally self taught.
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.
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,
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
Is it any wonder that this man grew up loving music and playing
still in high school Julian started playing "out" with
a popular local dance band, “The Collegiates”, and continued that
musical relationship for 21 years.
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”.
the last five years he has been a featured main stage performer
at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in
- International Thumbpicking
1998 - International Freestyle
2000 - National Fingerpick Guitar
Perry Como of the guitar,”
…one of the best guitarist
on the scene today, and one of my favorites”
Paul Yandell, Chet Atkins’ sideman and
“…impeccable timing and
smooth tone, with a touch remindful of Chet.”
John Knowles, Chet Atkins’ transcriber and Grammy award winner.
heard one guitar sound that good!” - says Brenda Ruppe, of “The
Ruppes”, Gospel vocal trio and
“It’s just amazing what
Julian does on the guitar” – says Kevin Williams, guitarist
for Bill Gatiher’s band.