Smothers was born in Lexington, Mississippi, and was taught by his aunt to
play both harmonica and guitar. Smothers relocated to Chicago in 1946, and
his debut stage performance occurred with Johnny Williams and Johnny 'Man'
Young. In the early part of the 1950s, Smothers played alongside his own
cousin Lester Davenport, plus Arthur 'Big Boy' Spires, Earl Hooker, Henry
Strong, and Bo Diddley.
In 1956 and 1957, Howlin' Wolf invited
Smothers to play as his rhythm guitarist on several Chess tracks, including
'Who's Been Talking,' 'Tell Me,' 'Change My Way,' 'Goin' Back Home,' 'The
Natchez Burning,' and 'I Asked For Water.' Smothers secured a recording
contract with Federal Records in August 1960. With Sonny Thompson as his
record producer, and Freddie King on lead guitar, Smothers saw the resultant
album, Smokey Smothers Sings the Backporch Blues released in 1962. Another
four track session followed, including 'Twist With Me Annie', a reworked
version of 'Work with Me, Annie.' As a part-time member of Muddy Waters'
backing band, Smothers also cut 'I Got My Eyes on You,' in 1968.
Otis 'Big Smokey' Smothers help to form the
Muddy Waters Junior Band as tribute to his friend and blues legend,
Muddy Waters. While Muddy Waters was
touring abroad (Europe, overseas), Smothers would perform as lead guitarists
with the Muddy Waters Junior Band.
The 1970s were a lean time for Smothers, but he finally returned to
recording in 1986, when Red Beans Records issued his album, Got My Eyes On
You. His backing band were billed as The Ice Cream Men, a nod to Smothers
working as an ice cream vendor back in the 1950s.
Smothers wrote songs for Muddy Waters, and has a catalogue of songs to his
credit including his, 'I've Been Drinking Muddy Water', 'Ain't Gon Be No
Monkey Man', and 'Can't Judge Nobody.'
Latterly suffering from heart disease, Smothers died in Chicago at the age
of 64, in July 1993.
A daughter is currently in process of bringing the brothers, Otis 'Big
Smokey' Smothers and younger brother Abe 'Little Smokey' Smothers, life
story to the big screen. Smothers is survived by wife, Earline Smothers, his
sons, daughters, five brothers and sisters, and extended family.
Sings the Backporch Blues (1962) - King
Drivin' Blues (1966) - King (re-issue of Sings the Backporch Blues)
Got My Eyes on You (1986) - Red Beans
Chicago Blues Session Volume 1 (1998) - Wolf