Smoky Greenwell learned harmonica in earnest in the mid-1970’s by sitting in with the venerable blues masters Furry Lewis, Piano Red and Mose Vincent. Greenwell’s career as a first-call sessions player began at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios and led him to take up residence in Nashville in the ’80’s. Greenwell came to national attention in the band Blues Co-Op (with Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes). Greenwell came to New Orleans in 1981 for an engagement at the now legendary (and defunct) Old Absinthe Bar and decided to stay.
Since that time, he has shared stages with Snooks Eaglin, Marc Adams, Eddie Bo, “Big” Al Carson, Brint Anderson, Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone, Coco Robicheaux, Willie Lockett, John Carey, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, Kermit Venable and BeauBassin, Kipori “Baby Wolf” Woods, Bryan Lee, Timothea, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Jeremy Lyons, Spencer Bohren, George Porter, Jr., Waylon Thibodeaux, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., Chubby Carrier, Blue Floyd, Mother Blues, Lenny McDaniel, Irene Sage, Tommy Malone, Tim Green, Jimmy Page, Eugene Carrier, Tom Worrell, and many others in the areas of blues, jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, funk, and country. In addition to fronting his own band, Greenwell is best known as the replacement for Lee Oskar in the seminal band WAR with Harold Brown, BB Dickerson, and Howard Scott (currently recording and touring under the name The Original Lowriders for legal reasons).
Greenwell has nearly a dozen CDs to his credit: Smokin (1993), Smoke Alarm (1995), Blowout (1998), Premium Smoke (2000), Smokin’ Christmas (2002), Classic Smoke (2005), Between Iraq and a Hard Place (2008), 99% Blues (2012), Smoky Greenwell’s New Orleans Blue Jam: Live at the Old U.S. Mint (2015), South Louisiana Blues (2016), and his new album, Blues and the Power of Peace (2019).
In 2017, Smoky was awarded the 2017 Spirit of Little Walter Award at the Little Walter Music Festival in Alexandria, LA for his band’s performance and teaching a harmonica seminar