Albert Abraham 'Abe' Smothers was born in Tchula, Mississippi, learned
guitar at the age of 15, and relocated to Chicago two years later. He soon
appeared on stage playing alongside
Arthur “Big Boy” Spires,
Magic Sam, Otis Rush
and Lazy Bill Lucas. In 1958 he joined up with Howlin' Wolf, and played on
Wolf's recording session for Chess Records the following year. Tracks
Smothers contributed to included 'I've Been Abused,' 'Howlin' for My
Darling,' and 'Mr. Airplane Man.'
In 1961 he founded Little Smokey Smothers and the Pipeplayers. He later met
Paul Butterfield and became a founding
member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He was replaced in the band by
Elvin Bishop, but developed a friendship
that lasted a lifetime. Throughout the 1960s Smothers appeared with
Buddy Guy, James
Cotton, Earl Hooker, and
Junior Wells. Musical opportunities dried
up in the 1970s, and Smothers worked in construction. He recorded again,
after several years break, in 1979 as part of Mojo Buford's Chicago Blues
Summit album. He re-appeared in the 1980s with The Legendary Blues Band.
Their 1989 recording, Woke up with the Blues, included contributions from
In 1993, Bishop made a guest appearance on Smothers first solo album with
the Dutch Black Magic label, Bossman! The Chicago Blues of Little Smokey
Smothers. The recording also included work from Smothers' cousin, Lee 'Shot'
Williams. Bishop and Smothers played at the 1993 Chicago Blues Festival.
Smothers had open heart surgery in 1995, but the following year issued
Second Time Around. Smothers performed at the 1999 San Diego Blues Festival,
and at a party for Mick Jagger's 55th birthday.
Alligator Records then issued That's My Partner (2000), a live album
recorded in San Francisco, which saw Smothers reunited with Bishop. Smothers
also appeared at the 2000 Chicago Blues Festival. He also featured in Martin
Scorsese's 2003 television series The Blues, with excerpts from his live
show. In 2006 Smothers and Bishop played live at the Ground Zero club in
Clarksdale, Mississippi. Latterly Smothers experienced health problems, and
had both legs amputated due to diabetes.
In 2009, Bishop compiled the benefit album, Chicago Blues Buddies,
incorporating recordings made by Smothers and Bishop dating back to 1992.
Proceeds from the album helped to pay for Smothers' medical costs.
On November 20, 2010, after a spell in a Chicago hospital, Smothers died of