March 28, 2017

William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff, known professionally as Willie “The Lion” Smith was born the son of a Jew named Bertholoff and an African-American, Native American and Spanish mother. He was bar-mitzvahed, sang as a cantor in synagogue and spoke Yiddish. He, along with James Johnson and Fats Waller, popularized stride piano at the highest level. Duke Ellington wrote the foreword to his biography. He was criminally under-recorded but those that do exist are more than enough to earn him today’s BBR piano-week slot.

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