Albert Smothers

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The Independent Online

Albert "Little Smokey" Smothers, who died on 20 November aged 71, was a veteran Chicago blues guitarist and singer, a versatile sideman and influential teacher of younger bluesmen.

A native of Tchula, Mississippi, Smothers moved to Chicago as a teenager. Following the lead of his older brother, the late Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, he learned guitar and was soon performing with such artists as Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter. He had a smooth, jazzy, contemporary style, influenced by the likes of BB King and Albert King.

Smothers was known as a mentor to aspiring musicians, particularly the guitarist Elvin Bishop and the late Paul Butterfield, founders of the influential Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Both were students at the University of Chicago when they met Smothers. Bishop said Smothers began teaching him blues techniques after meeting him at a South Side music club. Smothers recruited Butterfield after hearing the younger man play harmonica on the sidewalk in the Hyde Park neighborhood of South Side Chicago.

Smothers partially retired in the early 1970s to support his family by working as a heavy equipment operator and chef, but he returned to the blues in 1978. He continued performing until several years ago, when his health went into decline.