Barry “Frosty” Smith Passes
Barry “Frosty” Smith died this past April 12. The drummer, known by many for his work with the popular soul-rock organist and singer Lee Michaels, worked in multiple genres since the late 1960s, and his devotees included none other than John Bonham, as well as a countless number of drummers in Austin, Texas, where he made his home in 1981.
Smith was born in Bellingham, Washington, and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, and was a child tap-dance prodigy who studied classical piano before taking up the drums. The nickname Frosty was derived from his chosen stage name of Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost, as he was credited on Lee Michaels albums. The few available videos of this duo provide great insight into the drummer’s early command of the instrument, while the ten-minute solo “Frosty’s” from Michaels’ self-titled 1969 LP is a master class in phrasing, textures, and dynamics.
After his tenure with Michaels, Frosty formed the San Francisco–based group Sweathog, which scored a modest hit with the track “Hallelujah” before breaking up in 1973. After relocating to Los Angeles, Smith appeared on records by Rare Earth, Sly and the Family Stone, and Funkadelic. In the early ’80s he toured with Texas roots-music legend Delbert McClinton and subsequently settled in Austin. As a first-call drummer in the city, he recorded with Junior Brown, Butch Hancock, Papa Mali, Roky Erickson, and Marcia Ball, among many others. The ’90s found him guiding players twenty years his junior in the band Soulhat, which was signed to Epic Records and toured nationally.
Many stories paint Smith as sort of a cross between Star Wars’ eminently wise Yoda character and the TV comedy Parks and Rec’s notoriously libertarian Ron Swanson. After being called by Frosty to sub for him, a young Brannen Temple (Dixie Chicks, Eric Johnson) left him a voicemail inquiring about the condition of the Antone’s Nightclub house drumset. The reply message was simple: “Brannen, Frosty. Be a man.” Click. Chris Layton (Double Trouble, Kenny Wayne Shepherd) once asked Smith to give his then adolescent son a lesson. Frosty agreed to meet at Layton’s house forty minutes away that same day, and he demonstrated single- and double-stroke rolls. “You have to have the tools and do them well, and then you can do anything you want,” he told the junior Layton. “And if you don’t, you won’t.” Stephen Bidwell
Special thanks to Eric Hughes of the Percussive Arts Society for sharing an interview conducted by Stephen Belans at PASIC 2012.
D’Addario Awards Six Chicago-Area Music Education Grants
The D’Addario Foundation, a 503(c) nonprofit that partners with transformative music education organizations, awarded more than $17,000 in grants to six Chicago-area music education nonprofits this past April 28 at the Burr Ridge, Illinois, music retailer and lesson center, Quinlan and Fabish. “Handing out grants to not-for-profit organizations like these is my favorite part of my job,” D’Addario Foundation director Suzanne D’Addario Brouder said. “Our foundation’s purpose is to support organizations like these and to recognize and raise the visibility of the tireless and incredibly impactful work they do in expanding music education possibilities.”
Roland Announces New Partnership with Playing for Change Foundation
Roland Corporation U.S. recently announced its official roles as lead partner and tenth-anniversary sponsor with the Playing for Change Foundation (PFC), a global nonprofit organization that develops and supports school music programs in underserved communities around the world. Roland’s global artist-relations centers will assist the PFC with local events by supplying equipment, helping with video content, and supporting the foundation’s upcoming tenth-anniversary celebration.
“We believe every child deserves the opportunity to experience the joy of making music,” says Roland CEO and representative director Junichi Miki. “Through our alliance with the dedicated team at PFC, we aim to make this a reality for children we otherwise may not have been able to reach.”