Ethel Smith

The First Lady of the Organ, Ethel Smith, may be responsible for many sales of household organs in the 1950s. Her appearances on television and in movies, in addition to many hit albums, no doubt inspired many others. Her rendition of "Tico Tico" stands as the definitive piece for pop organists to demonstrate their "chops."

Smith studied piano and organ at the Carnegie Technical Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While singing on a Hollywood set, she discovered the newly developed Hammond electric organ and took to it instantly. Her real break came at the Copacana in Rio de Janeiro, where she was mastering and playing South American rhythms. The head of a tobacco company invited her back to New York to star on the "Hit Parade" radio show. After a year at that, she began a rigorous film, public performance, and recording career.

The Ethel Smith sound is distinguished by much more than extraordinary ability and pioneering the Hammond electric. Most of her male peers lacked her innate, Raymond Scott-ish or cartoonish, way with children's themes and other jaunty pop ditties. She was truly "bright and breezy." In addition to Latin and Brasilian rhythms, pet themes included driving tunes about locomotives, marches, parades, etc. She seemed to be much happier uptempo. Appropriate sound effects make their appearance, and on a late cover of "Taste of Honey," guitar adds a modernizing touch.

Buying: The 10" LPs can be skipped in favor of the 12" LPs (the 8000 series are reissues, mono-only). Except for the obviously dull waltz-only records, all are worth checking out.

Ethel Smith 10" 78s

5Toca Tu Samba/Dinorah 78 rpm single; Decca

Ethel Smith 10" LPs

7Souvenir Album; Decca DLP-5016 (on 12" DL-8457)
5Christmas Music; Decca DL-5034 (on 12" DL-8187)
7Ethel Smith's Toy Parade; Decca DL-5283; 1950 (on 12" DL-8799)
7Galloping Fingers; Decca DL-5327 (on 12" DL-8456)
3Popular Waltzes; Decca DL-5357; 1951 (on 12" DL-8735)

Ethel Smith 12" LPs

7Ethel Smith's Cha-Cha-Cha; Decca DL-8164
5Christmas Music; Decca DL-8187
6Galloping Fingers; Decca DL-8456
7Latin from Manhattan; Decca DL-8457
6Miss Smith Goes to Paris; Decca DL-8640
7Dance to the Latin Rhythms of Ethel Smith; Decca DL-8712
4Waltz with Me; Decca DL-8735
7Lady Fingers; Decca DL-8744
7Bright & Breezy; Decca DL-8799
4Seated One Day at the Organ; Decca DL-78902
5Bouquet of the Blues; Decca DL-78955
4Ethel Smith on Broadway; Decca DL-78993
5Ethel Smith Organ Solos; Decca/Vocalion VL-73669
4Ethel Smith Swings Sweetly; Decca DL-74095
7The Many Moods of Ethel Smith; Decca DL-74145
6Make Mine Hawaiian; Decca DL-74236
6Lady of Spain; Decca DL-74325
7Rhythm Antics!; Decca DL-74414
4At the End of a Perfect Day; Decca DL-74467
7Hollywood Favorites; Decca DL-74618
7Ethel Smith's Hit Party; Decca DL-74803
4Ethel Smith (Organ Solos); Vocalion VL-73669 (compilation)
6Latin Fire!/Organ Extravaganza; MCA MSM-35080 (compilation)

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