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Album Review

In 2006, Sepia released a 29-track album of recordings made during the late '40s by wholesome pop vocalist, film actor, and TV personality Jack Smith, who was born in 1916 near Seattle, Washington. Billed for a while as "the man with the smile in his voice," Smith cranked out a series of hit records for Capitol which fairly glow with his rosy personality. Accompanied by studio orchestras under the direction of Earl Sheldon and Frank DeVol, Smith is backed by the Clark Sisters (known for their work with Tommy Dorsey who billed them as the Sentimentalists) and the Crew Chiefs, a group closely associated with Glenn Miller and Tex Beneke. Sepia has assembled most of Smith's significant recordings from the years 1946-1949, some of which charted in the Top Ten. His first hit record was the exciting "Jack, Jack, Jack (Cu-Tu-Gu-Ru)" b/w "Oh! My Achin' Heart." Although today the words to "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo)" clearly trivialize the needs of the long-suffering Congolese, Smith's record sold well, even in competition with versions by Louis Prima and Danny Kaye. "Cuanto la Gusta (La Parranda)" further illustrates Smith's ability to succeed with an enjoyable version of a song in competition with other popular artists — in this case Xavier Cugat and Carmen Miranda with the Andrews Sisters. "Coca Roca" is even wilder, with Smith working himself into a delirious frenzy of ecstatic chatter. Such over-the-top histrionics ultimately emphasize the song's apparent double meaning, and one is moved to ponder exactly what sort of coca the singer indulged in (this would constitute another possible link with La Miranda). Backed with the catchy "Cornbelt Symphony," "Coca Roca" climbed to the Top 15 in the charts. This fine collection of harmless entertainments closes with "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)". Smith recorded his cover only weeks after the primary Decca version was cut by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians. Both renditions are preferable to the Wonder Bread interpretation by Doris Day, who appeared in the 1951 motion picture Moonlight Bay opposite the handsome and personable Jack Smith. It is surprising how much discographical confusion can be generated by a too-common name. Whispering Jack Smith, for example, was a pop singer active in the 1920s and ‘30s who specialized in numbers like "Me and My Shadow" and "Gimme a Little Kiss." Whistling Jack Smith was an imaginary entity invented by British record producer Noel Walker; following its appearance in 1967, Walker/Smith's "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" received enormous airplay on both sides of the Atlantic. Other noteworthy Jack Smiths include a country singer and leader of the band Rockabilly Planet, and a legendary underground filmmaker and performance poet whose archival early-‘60s tape recordings and weird soundtrack excerpts have been made available in two volumes on the obscure Table of the Elements label. If, however, you have a hankering for crisply produced late-‘40s pop vocals packed with sunshine and enthusiastic stage presence, why then without a doubt this is the Jack Smith for you.


Born: 14 November 1932 in Columbus, OH

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Not to be confused with vaudeville's Whispering Jack Smith nor with '60s English pop entity Whistling Jack Smith, popular singer, actor, MC, and radio and television personality Jack Smith was also known as Smilin' Jack Smith. On November 16, 1916, Jack Ward Smith was born on Bainbridge Island, Seattle, Washington, the son of U.S. Navy Captain Walter Smith and his wife Mabel. Jack's little brother Walter Jr. would grow up to become Hollywood character actor Walter Reed. In 1931, 15-year-old Jack...
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Jack Smith Sings “Jack, Jack, Jack”, Jack Smith
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