Dr. Lonnie Smith is now in his fifth decade of recording and performing as a solo act, and behind a virtual who's who of jazz legends. Smith makes a stop in Chicago to play the Jazz Showcase this weekend (March 24-27). In a conversation with WGLT's Jon Norton, Dr. Smith says he remembers longing for a chance to make music from an early age.
"If I could learn an instrument, I could play and make a living. That's what I wanted."
Despite not playing the organ, he took one off the hands off an what he calls "an angel," who was looking to get rid of one so long as someone could move it out of his place.
"I had to get someone to show me everything...I didn't know how to do any of it."
Some five decades later, Dr. Smith is considered one of the all-time greats on jazz organ. He has played with an impressive list of musicians, and has numerous recordings in both his name and as a sideman.
"We had a lot of fun, and we didn't know things were gonna be like that. It's a beautiful thing, I didn't know that the songs were that nice, I just enjoyed playing."
Coming up in New York in the late 1960's and early 1970's, Smith says it was surreal to hear so many different sounds in one place.
"It should be like that today, because you need to put a lot of different music together so people get the education."
Pop, soul, funk, acid jazz; Dr. Lonnie Smith has done it all.
"I play music because I love it more than anything."