Clarence “Pine Top” Smith was from Troy, Alabama. He was a self-taught pianist who began his career performing at area house parties as a teenager. He received his nickname “Pinetop” as a young child for his love for climbing trees.
He was an entertainer on the TOBA Vaudeville circuit for a while, and later traveled with Ma Rainey and Butterbeans & Susie. In 1928, Smith moved to Chicago and took up residence in the same building as Albert Ammons and Meade “Lux” Lewis. The three men would sometimes have all-night music sessions. He was also a big name when it came to raising money at rent parties.
In 1928, he recorded “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” which was a huge hit. It was the song that cemented the name for the dance style and the first time that the words “boogie woogie” appeared on an album.
Smith ranks among the most influential blues figures of the 1920s. On January 14 and 15, 1929 Smith recorded six more sides of his vaudeville repertoire for Vocalion records, including I’m Sober Now and Jump Steady Blues. Williams died from a gunshot wound in Chicago on March 15, 1929.