Smoky Greenwell was born in Michigan on the 4th of July 1951, reared in Delaware, and schooled in Spain and Tennessee. Smoky learned harmonica in earnest in the mid-1970’s and began sitting in with the venerable blues masters Furry Lewis, Piano Red and Mose Vincent. His career as a first-call sessions player began at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios. This led him to take up residence in Nashville, and playing saxophone, in the mid-1980’s. Smoky came to national attention in the band Blues Co-Op (with Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes). It was in Nashville that Smoky began a long association with Allman Brothers keyboardist, singer and producer Johnny Neel, a partnership that continues to this day.
Smoky came to New Orleans in 1989 for an engagement at the now legendary (and defunct) Old Absinthe Bar and decided to stay. In New Orleans, he has played with Snooks Eaglin, Eddie Bo, “Big” Al Carson, Coco Robicheaux, Willie Lockett, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, Bryan Lee, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Spencer Bohren, George Porter, Jr., Waylon Thibodeaux, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., Chubby Carrier, Tommy Malone, Jimmy Page, Willie Weeks, Trombone Shorty, and many others in the areas of blues, New Orleans jazz, Zydeco, and funk. In addition to fronting his own band, Smoky was the 1990’s replacement for Lee Oskar in the seminal band WAR with Harold Brown, BB Dickerson, and Howard Scott. More recently, Smoky appeared in The Last Waltz Tribute Band with Warren Haynes, Bob Margolin, Michael McDonald, and Don Was.
The Smoky Greenwell Band has been performing weekly shows in New Orleans for the past two decades, generating a sizeable and loyal fan base. He has produced and hosted numerous blues events at the Carver Theatre and at the Frenchmen Theatre in New Orleans. He serves as the producer and host of the annual Harmonica Extravaganza in New Orleans during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Smoky is frequently sought out by blues harmonica aficionados seeking private lessons. He spends his time performing in New Orleans while not on the road, doing sessions work and giving private lessons on saxophone and harmonica as schedule permits. Smoky has appeared as a sessions player on numerous sides over the years.
“Road time” often means appearances at some of the numerous music festivals held annually in the South.
Smoky Greenwell was the recipient of the 2017 “Spirit of Little Walter Award,” presented to him at the Little Walter Music Festival in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Here is a discography of Greenwell’s original releases:
Smoke Alarm (1995)
Premium Smoke (2000)
Smokin’ Christmas (2002)
Smokin’ Classics (2005)
Between Iraq and a Hard Place (2008)
99% Blues (2012)
We Earned the Right (with Mark Pentone) (2010)
Live at the Old US Mint (2014)
South Louisiana Blues (2016)
Blues and the Power of Peace (2019)