G. E. Smith at the Guitar Emporium

By Paul Moffett

The Guitar Emporium was chock-full of guitar players, but they weren't there to look at guitars.

Well, maybe a little bit, if they happened to be sitting close to one of the many instruments hanging on the wall. Maybe a quick peek.

No, they were gathered in this commercial shrine to Fender and Martin and Gretsch and Gibson to pay homage to a guitar player's guitar player, G. E. Smith, who did not hesitate to reach for the instruments on the walls. But that gets ahead of the story.

The Guitar Emporium's Jimmy Brown's many years of being guitar dealer to the stars pays off in odd ways. Smith's appearance could be attributed to those connections, plus a desire on the part of Smith to promote significant other Taylor Barton's Thoroughbred CD, her first.

Anyway, the big bus was parked directly in front of the Emporium, with all the bones of the operation pretty much there for all to see. There was a fair bit of low-key status checking by players in the hope that some backroom access might happen.

Smith's band first backed Barton, as she ran through a set of folky tunes reminiscent of mid-career Judy Collins without Collins' vocal abilities. Credit Smith with the sense to stay down low on the neck and not let his playing overrun Barton's singing.

The audience was polite, but they were there to see Smith, who did not disappoint. After a short break, the crew reassembled and took flight. Smith moved up the neck of the guitar and proceeded to demonstrate why he was the music jefe for Saturday Night Live for all those years.

What did he play? Who was taking notes? It was a clinic, it was a romp, it was G. E. Smith doing his thing. What a pleasure to listen to it and what a pleasure it was that he had such a tight unit to lend him support.

Smith closed out the evening by thanking Jimmy Brown, who he called the "last honest man in America."

The room of guitar players (and customers) cheered.

And they meant it, too.