Clarence Smith, better known as Pinetop Smith or Pine Top Smith (June 11, 1904 – March 15, 1929) was an American boogie-woogie style blues pianist. His hit tune, "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie," featured rhythmic "breaks" that were an essential ingredient of ragtime music. He was a posthumous 1991 inductee of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Smith was born in Troy, Alabama and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his nickname as a child from his liking for climbing trees. In 1920 he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he worked as an entertainer before touring on the T. O. B. A. vaudeville circuit, performing as a singer and comedian as well as a pianist. For a time he worked as accompanist for blues singer Ma Rainey and Butterbeans and Susie. In the mid 1920s he was recommended by Cow Cow Davenport to J. Mayo Williams at Vocalion Records, and in 1928 he moved, with his wife and young son, to Chicago, Illinois to record. For a time he, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis lived in the same rooming house. On 29 December 1928 he recorded his influential "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie," one of the first "boogie woogie" style recordings to make a hit, and which cemented the name for the style. Pine Top talks over the recording, telling how to dance to the number. He said he originated the number at a house-rent party in St. Louis, Missouri. Smith was the first ever to direct "the girl with the red dress on" to "not move a peg" until told to "shake that thing" and "mess around". Similar lyrics are heard in many later songs, including "Mess Around" and "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles. Smith was scheduled to make another recording session for Vocalion in 1929, but died from a gunshot wound in a dance-hall fight in Chicago the day before the session. Sources differ as to whether he was the intended recipient of the bullet. "I saw Pinetop spit blood" was the famous headline in Down Beat magazine. No photographs of Smith are known to exist.
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