About G.E. Smith & the Saturday Night Live Band
Most of the millions of people who saw pony-tailed Smith play scorching guitar during a ten-year stint in the Saturday Night Live Band know only a fraction of a brilliant, multi-faceted talent. Musicians are far more familiar with him. The list of world-class players he has performed with is staggering -- Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Eric Clapton, and David Bowie are only a portion.
G.E. (George Edward) was born in suburban Stroudsburg, PA., where he was playing guitar at four. For years, he's hung on to his first electric axe, a 1952 Telecaster made the year he was born. He vividly remembers Peter, Paul & Mary and Dylan's first album in 1963. Catching the legendary Odetta and Josh White at a taping of the TV show Hootenanny left a lasting impression. Not even shaving yet, he was supporting himself as a musician, playing high school dances and Poconos resorts, often with bandmates twice his age.Smith gravitated to the New Haven, CT., area and hooked up with the Scratch Band for some memorable club dates up and down the East Coast in the first half of the '70s. Dan Hartman gave Smith his first real break by hiring him to front his band for a lip-synch tour of Europe. Once back in the States, Smith headed for Manhattan and became the guitarist for Gilda Radner's 1979 Broadway show Gilda Live.
Smith's life also changed in 1979 when he began a six-year stint as lead guitarist with Hall & Oates. The hits included "Kiss on My List," "Private Eyes," and "Man Eater," and they toured incessantly. Smith recalls how they once toured in the summer in the northern hemisphere followed by a summer tour in the southern hemisphere, avoiding the New York winter.
The fantasy part of his career began in early 1985 at the Live Aid and Farm Aid concerts. The Hall & Oates band became the house band for both events, and Smith was the de facto music director. He played with Jagger, Turner, and whoever else didn't have a band. Jagger used Smith on his first solo album She's the Boss, as well as on Primitive Cool. The hard-working Smith also played on some one-off recordings and concerts with Bowie, Peter Wolf, and others.
When Hall & Oates took an extended break from music, Smith was offered the job of Saturday Night Live music director due to contacts made through Radner. Besides winning an Emmy for his work with the consistently excellent SNL band, Smith performed with a stunning list of guest musicians -- Keith Richards, Al Green, Rickie Lee Jones, Bryan Ferry, and others. He played out his fantasies by inviting hot guitarists to drop in unannounced, including Eddie Van Halen, Johnny Winter, David Gilmour, Lonnie Mack, Dave Edmunds, and Buddy Guy. The Guy connection led to Smith and the SNL band backing him for a Grammy-nominated live album. While with SNL, Smith wrote a theme song for Mike Myers to go with the "Wayne's World" skit. Smith wrote it to suit Aerosmith, that week's guest. When the skit became a hit movie, the soundtrack with Smith's tune became a platinum-selling smash. Also during his SNL tenure, Smith toured for four years with Dylan, jetting all around the world and flying back in time for Saturday night's live show. As if he didn't have enough to do, Smith was the music director for special events including the 1988 Emmy Awards, the 1993 Rhythm and Blues Foundation Awards, a Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame Museum concert, and the Dylan 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. It was a dream come true for the kid from Stroudsburg -- he'd rehearse with George Harrison in the morning, Clapton in the afternoon, and Lou Reed in the evening. "One afternoon, rehearsing the finale, I had Harrison, Tom Petty, Clapton, Neil Young, Dylan, and Roger McGuinn all lined up and I'm saying,'OK, George, you sing here; Eric, you play now; Bob, you come in now. . . .' "
As the century was drawing to a close, Smith was recording and running a small but expanding record label, Green Mirror Music, with talented singer/songwriter Taylor Barton, whom he married. Former SNL bassist Paul Ossola, former Wings drummer Steve Holley, and guitarist Tom Cosgrove were backing up Smith and Barton. ~ Mark Allan, Rovi