ABOUT

Drummer Kenny SmithKenny Smith was unquestionably born into blues royalty. He grew up in the same house where Muddy Waters once lived in Chicago, the home of the blues. Throughout his childhood, Kenny was surrounded by Muddy and his friends, which included his own father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (1936-2011). These same blues icons helped mold him into the person and drummer he is today and later in life asked him to provide his famous backbeat on some of the largest and most respected stages and recordings in the world. Kenny has played over 8,500 live performances to date and has earned the right to wear that royal blues crown. His father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, played drums for the Muddy Waters’ Band in the early 1960’s and then again from 1968 through 1980 and was featured on all of Muddy’s Grammy winning albums. Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, one of the best known living blues drummers today, learned 99% of what he knows about drumming from his father and was also inspired by acclaimed drummers: Odie Payne, Fred Below, Earl Phillips, S. P. Leary, Francis Clay and Art Blakey and many others who paved the way.

Grammy Award Winner – Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith is a world famous, multi-award winning, blues drummer extraordinaire who in 2011 won a Grammy award for his remarkable work on Joined at The Hip with Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Kenny had the honor and privilege of contributing to that project both through song writing and drumming and is delighted that his accomplishments and talents were recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Honored all across the globe for his exceptional achievements, Kenny won Living Blues awards for most outstanding musician (drums) in 2008 (shared with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith), 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2009, an album entitled “Chicago Blues: A Living History” on which Kenny recorded, was nominated for a Grammy Award. This same album won Best Blues Album in 2009 by the Academie de Jazz de France. Kenny is a four time nominee for a Blues Music Award for Best Drummer by the Blues Foundation. He performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008 with Koko Taylor and B.B. King during a tribute for actor Morgan Freeman. And in 2010, Kenny toured with the Taproot group and the U.S. State Department in Africa where the group played for ambassadors, returnee/refugee camps and taught workshops to local musicians. Kenny’s also passionate about the Blues in the Schools program and is spreading the message about the Blues by providing education to students both in the United States as well as internationally.

Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith knows that his blues values go beyond just “choppin’ wood” to the back beat. He was told by his father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and many other legends (whom he considered as family at an early age) to carry on the blues and to not just play it- he was told to “live it, learn it and breathe it” and from those experiences he would be able to keep the past and present history of the blues alive and kicking all over the world. When Kenny is not stroking a blues groove, he is an active agent, bringing all-star musicians together for a fun filled night of blues at many events and festivals across the globe. Kenny is also a producer for many record labels/bands/ musicians in the studio, bringing out the best in their music for all of us to enjoy. It is through his work over the years with these blues experts that Kenny has perfected and imagined several different new blues shuffles- including his ingenious trademark, the “Kenny Smith Triple Blues Shuffle”. This is a genuine, original, blues shuffle (which is true to its and Kenny Smith’s roots) that has a modern, inventive flavor. You’ll have to see/hear it to believe it.

Kenny Smith has a stellar reputation for being an outstanding all around studio musician as well as performer, has spent hundreds of hours in recording sessions working everyday with an extensive range of brilliant artists and is credited on numerous music albums with some of the top blues artists and legends in the world. All of the labels on which Kenny has been featured are impressed by his authentic and versatile drumming skills as he brings new and innovative ways of drumming to the forefront while keeping the blues traditions alive. Kenny is honored to not only have played with but to consider many of these top blues legends as close friends:

  • Honeyboy Edwards
  • Homesick James
  • Pinetop Perkins
  • Willie “Big Eyes” Smith
  • Buddy Guy
  • Billy Boy Arnold
  • Hubert Sumlin
  • Dave & Louis Myers from the original Little Walter Aces
  • Taj Mahal
  • James Cotton
  • Carrie Bell
  • Koko Taylor
  • Junior Wells
  • Louisiana Red
  • John Brim
  • Big Jack Johnson
  • Detroit Jr.
  • Jerry Portnoy
  • Sam Lay
  • Henry Gray
  • Big Bill Morganfield
  • Lurrie Bell
  • Jimmy Rogers
  • Calvin Fuzz Jones
  • Paul DeLay
  • Luther Guitar Junior
  • Aaron Burton
  • Bob Stroger
  • Henry Townsend
  • Buddy Scott
  • Keb Mo
  • Muddy Waters
  • Bob Margolin
  • Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds
  • Jody Williams
  • The Legendary Blues Band
  • Tail Dragger
  • Easy Baby
  • Little Arthur Duncan
  • Lovie Lee
  • Johnny Lane

Without the amazing contributions of these musicians listed above, for which Kenny is extremely grateful, he would not have the opportunities he has today to play with such remarkable, phenomenal artists on a daily basis.

In an article in the Living Blues magazine, David Whiteis says “Since the beginning, Smith has been a roots-loving blues man, immersed in the traditional postwar style he learned from his father and still cherishes”. Now one of the savviest drummers out there, Kenny is also gifted in learning and mastering different methods of playing music- which makes him one of the most in demand and sought out drummers in the world. Kenny’s also a true leader and one that understands the music industry to a great extent. Whiteis quotes Kenny in saying:

“If you’re really taking the music seriously, it’s discipline. You need the discipline. If you really take the music seriously, it takes you to some different places, and it keeps you firmly disciplined. When you’re on stage, you’re a team. You should be a team when you’re on stage. You should be family on stage. You should treat every musician on stage with respect.”

Later, Whiteis goes on to say about Kenny that “balance, perspective and focus are more than mere musical values to him.” Quoting Smith, Whiteis writes “I focus up there, I listen to the music around me, and I try my best to play the best that I can, and I feel good about myself when I’m finished.” Kenny’s stand-up reputation in the music business is based on these philosophies and he wouldn’t have it any other way.