Born in Ripley, OH, the brother of trumpeter Russell Smith. He played with small groups in St. Louis, MO then went to New York City in 1920. There he joined Kaiser Marshall's band, and accompanied Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith (whose favorite trumpet player he was) and Mamie Smith in 1922 and 1923. In 1924, he led a group backing Noble Sissie and Eubie Blake, and played off and on with Fletcher Henderson from 1925 to 1928. After playing briefly with Bennie Moten, he played intermittently with McKinney's Cotton Pickers from 1929 to 1934. In the early '30s his health started to fail and he worked infrequently, spending the last four years of his life in a Long Island, NY hospital. A spirited, sensitive artist whose tone and warmth of style were frequently compared to Bix Beiderbecke's, he ranked with Tommy Ladnier among the most underrated trumpet players of the '20s.
Source: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz