Cooler than you think...
May 26, 2017 11:52 AM   Subscribe

and he married Gilda Radner! George Edward "G. E." Smith -born 01/27/52--is an American guitarist. He was the lead guitarist in the band Hall & Oates and the musical director of Saturday Night Live.

Highly entertaining interview here. (slyt)

Smith was lead guitarist of Bob Dylan's touring band from June 7, 1988, to October 19, 1990. Smith also served as musical director of The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration for Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden on October 16, 1992.
As a session player, Smith has performed and recorded with an exceptionally wide spectrum of influential artists.
posted by shockingbluamp (48 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I remember him fondly from his time with my favorite band, Hall and Oates, including on stage at the Liberty Concert. I did not known until years later all his other stuff, though.
posted by mephron at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2017

if there were a war crime for guitar face...
posted by machaus at 12:05 PM on May 26, 2017 [26 favorites]

I recall people had a really disproportionate dislike of the guy just based on his face as he played SNL into commercial breaks. Sad to say it's what the guy will be remembered for.
posted by GuyZero at 12:10 PM on May 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

dhalgren…what I came for. not disappointed. thank you
posted by ShawnString at 12:12 PM on May 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'll mostly remember him from the Fashion video, but, yeah, hard to not cringe at the RNC thing.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:13 PM on May 26, 2017

First time I saw him live was the Hot Tuna (electric) w. Charlie Musselwhite, Larry Campbell, GE Smith, Teresa Williams tour like 6 years ago.
posted by mikelieman at 12:15 PM on May 26, 2017

also came here to post the vandals song, am very pleased it's already been taken care of
posted by burgerrr at 12:17 PM on May 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I recall people had a really disproportionate dislike of the guy just based on his face as he played SNL into commercial breaks. Sad to say it's what the guy will be remembered for.


Who is this?

Clicked on Halloween Jack's link.

Oh, that guy.
posted by lagomorphius at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

wait, is he dead?
posted by Theta States at 12:25 PM on May 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

He also played Station To Station at the GOP Convention.
posted by lkc at 12:29 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

...even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to musical grimacing. Truly an American icon.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

He's not dead, so feel free to speak ill.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

My eyes rolled when he was introduced as SNL's band leader because NBC at that time was owned by General Electric: G.E.
And "G.E. Smith" sounded like an unimaginative stage name even without the association.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:43 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Slag on him all you want, G.E. Smith is a monster guitar player. The RNC gig is a head scratcher to me, but I still very strongly admire his guitar playing.
posted by mosk at 12:49 PM on May 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fantastic guitar player and I never minded the faces back in the day when he was at SNL... but I'm never going to be able to forgive him for the RNC gig. It literally broke my heart last summer when I saw that he was there. So disappointing.
posted by thereemix at 12:56 PM on May 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

It's not that he's a bad player, it's that he grimaces for everything, any string bend or hammer-on and the guy's eyebrows go above his hairline and his lips retract for maximum teeth-clench visibility.
posted by rhizome at 1:07 PM on May 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

For anybody familiar, a fun thought experiment is to imagine how GE auditioning for Frank Zappa would have gone.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 PM on May 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

wait, is he dead?

Maybe you were thinking of J. Geils? (I know I was.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2017

I can to be a SNL fan in the late 80s/early 90s which overlapped my teen years. I VHS recorded every episode and watched them over and over again. With that said, I always had to fast forward through the musical bumpers because GE's guitar face really creeped me out.
posted by mmascolino at 1:27 PM on May 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't know. This post got me to watch this video, and he seems like a nice enough guy, a very good guitarist, and a bit of student of the instrument.
posted by 4ster at 2:10 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to have a solo LP from Smith dating from the early 80s that was really good. One of the few records over the years that seems to have vanished from my collection. I haven't listened to it in at least 25-30 years, but a couple of the songs still pop into my head regularly somehow, just on the power of the hooks they had. I'm not sure I remember the actual names of the tunes. This once again reminds me that I should hunt down that music, a thought that hits me every five years or so, and gets pushed to the bottom of the mental stack again.

Duh. Snooped around YT and found the songs that are still in my memory. I regularly forget how the internet is amazing.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:11 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

1. From 1979-1985, he was the lead guitarist for Hall & Oates.

Hall and Oates's concert video Rock'N Soul Live has a great example of Smith making his guitar face - it does not matter that the solo starts in with basically one note, GE Smith's face is ready for that.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:45 PM on May 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

All technique, no taste.
posted by tommasz at 3:15 PM on May 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I get the "now it's time to apply the taste technique" vibe from his playing, yeah...I think it's fascinating how every note can be perfect, in rock and especially blues, but the whole thing is wrong...on the other hand, Dylan used him for several years of heavy touring, so he must have something pretty powerful going on.
posted by thelonius at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2017

Saw him live during Roger Waters' The Wall tour a few years ago.

re: the RNC gig:
Roger’s obviously passionate about a lot of political issues. As a gigging musician, have you ever turned down a gig because it doesn’t line up with your personal views?
I have an 11-year-old daughter and she’s going to be going to school for a long time. And it’s expensive, so I have to work. Last year I did the Republican National Convention. When they first asked me to do it, I turned it down. And they offered another really good offer, which I turned it down. They came back with one more and I said no. [...] And then they came back with an insane final offer. And I thought, Well not only will this pay for several years of Josie’s school but I can hire six or seven of my friends, and give them a really good pay day too. So we went and played the Republican convention. We may not be Republicans, obviously, but it was really interesting. I got heavy flack from some people for doing it.

posted by _dario at 3:52 PM on May 26, 2017 [20 favorites]

Also, G. E. Smith is a proficient guitar historian, here he is in a two part video (guitar nerds only) from Christie's (the auctioneers) discussing Richard Gere's guitar collection.
posted by _dario at 3:55 PM on May 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

and he married Gilda Radner!

But not for long, iirc!

In regards to her, Gene Wilder was the man to whom G. E. could not hold a candle.

But then, imagine Mr. Smith's orgasm face... eeyew to the quantum max!
posted by y2karl at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are we seriously making fun of someone’s body in this thread? So he makes faces—Michael Jordan stuck out his tongue when he dunked a basketball. Mocking him for how you think his face looked when he had sex with his wife who left him for another man* is shameful.

*Not that I know she had an affair—simply stating that she was attracted to Wilder prior to her and Smith getting a divorced. It is public knowledge that their relationship was on the rocks prior to this and they may well have gotten divorced either way. No disrespect intended to Gene or Gilda.
posted by koavf at 4:31 PM on May 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I recall people had a really disproportionate dislike of the guy just based on his face as he played SNL into commercial breaks.

As I remember it, he also routinely wore a cheesy electric blue blazer that didn't help matters, though I can't find a photo of him in it online.
posted by orange swan at 5:00 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Guitar face is uncontrollable.

Most people don't even find out what their guitar face looks like.
posted by entropone at 5:13 PM on May 26, 2017

Oh, he did the RNC gig for money? Oh, well then. That's totally different.

I mean, for real? That's what he's going with? It's ok because they paid him a ton of money so of course he had to take it?

Fuck G.E. Smith. And fuck his stupid gross grimace too.
posted by holborne at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2017

NOT Cooler than I think
posted by root beer tastes like fire ants smell at 7:44 PM on May 26, 2017

Strangely unmentioned in the FPP link and in the thread is that "Smith" is a stage name: he was born George Edward Haddad ("haddad" is the Arabic word for "blacksmith"). The music for Trump's victory lap was being played by a Lebanese-American child of immigrants.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:21 PM on May 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I watched SNL when he was on it and I always thought he had a fantastic face.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:55 PM on May 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Musical face-making? Please.

This is musical face-making.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:41 PM on May 26, 2017

I thought Smith was to be the lead guitarist for Bowie's Scary Monsters tour that never happened. All those guys in the "Fashion" video are also in the Christiane F. concert scene, including Smith.

He played for real on the Tonight Show in 1980, right when Scary Monsters was released. I've seen the clip (the band performed "Ashes To Ashes" and "Life On Mars"), and G.E. isn't trying to overshadow the boss in that performance at all. It took me a second viewing to see that he was even there. I get the feeling Bowie wouldn't have put up with any mugging or guitar face. I guess when the tour didn't happen, that's when he must have gone to work for Hall and Oates.

When I was younger and was able to see the videos from H&O's Private Eyes album (and seriously, how cheap was RCA? They must have shot four videos in that same room with the guys in the same clothes), I hated looking at Smith's face. Then again, I was 12, and dammit, if you were a plain male pop star, I did not want to look at you. My friends and I would laugh at him because we thought he was old and ugly. We were horrible in the way teenagers are vain and horrible. But I also refused to watch his commercial outros on SNL because his guitar face made me cringe.

I had hoped he'd done "Station To Station" to be subversive at the Republican National Convention, but I guess not. Maybe he meant to pay tribute. I wonder; most of his audience probably didn't know the song--and probably weren't Bowie fans.
posted by droplet at 12:04 AM on May 27, 2017

A throwaway line from a decades-old issue of Entertainment Weekly is forever burned into my brain: "Suck-uppy grin."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:08 AM on May 27, 2017

Guitar face is an affectation. Not everybody does it. Very few do it as broadly and borderline-offensively as G.E. Smith. He is RIDICULOUS. It used to drive me nuts watching SNL in the 80s. It's a thing where, what he's playing could be totally kick-ass, but his face makes it look like a put-on. Like he's over-selling it. Like how porn-stars moan WAY more than anybody in real-life does. He's a great player. If I were putting together a backing band, G.E. Smith and Paul Shaffer would be high on the list of must-haves. But I'd have to look somewhere else anytime Mr. Smith was about to take a lead.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:32 AM on May 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Any folks making guitar-face comments have perhaps never seen the faces some classical cellists, pianists and violinists make.

Having been a huge Gilda fan,I always thought it was kinda interesting/cool she married the slightly goofy SNL guitarist.
posted by NorthernLite at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2017

Is there a such thing as a tryhard cellist? I mean come on, GE's Springsteen-level faces are not helping him deliver the goods.
posted by rhizome at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2017

Pfft. Haters. G.E.'s cool. And knows a lot about, and loves, the guitar. I loved his leads, great tone, all good.

When I was a kid I hated the people who made Muzak. How could they. They're terrible people. When I got old, or, y'know, now, I think hey good for them. Getting paid to play is how it has to be done right now in human history.

I don't begrudge him the RNC gig, though I understand why one might. He explained it perfectly - he can't code, he sucks at cooking, and he's too shy to work at Chippendales - whatever. Workng musicians get a pass, is what I'm saying.

His Interviews for Museum of radio & TV were pretty cool too.

(Edit: er, which part of was linked in the OP, mea culpa...)
posted by petebest at 1:30 PM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are we seriously making fun of someone’s body in this thread?

Point taken and my apologies for fwiw.

But, for a fact, he made exaggerated riciculous silly faces. In public. Other more private situations known for exaggerated ridiculous silly faces then come to mind.

However, had you merely written Mocking him for how you think his face looked when he had sex with his wife..., I might have felt bad.

But to add in addition the footnoted who left him for another man* is shameful is such a wtf irrelevancy, it boggles the mind. So, body shaming trumps character shaming, is that it ?

Gilda with the Scarlet A ? C'mon!

Especially since, in face of the fact that Mr. Wilder was the ultimate stand up dude throughout her long bout with cancer, it's an unnecessary attack on both their characters, about which you felt enough discomfort to add the no disrespect for something you had no need to bring up at all.

It's a rather shameful way to cry shame, not to mention pointless.

And that is my unedited, apart from correcting typos, reaction to your comment which I just now read.
posted by y2karl at 4:02 PM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your assessment: "Gene Wilder was the man to whom G. E. could not hold a candle." is really unwarranted. Speculating on their relationship is none of your or my business and I don't see the value in judging who was a better husband to someone whom neither of us know. That's why I added my bit at the end that I have no value judgement on whether or not she was justified in leaving him (maybe he was a terrible husband, what do I know?) I have no clue how you got character shaming from that since I explicitly said that I wasn't.
posted by koavf at 5:59 PM on May 27, 2017

The marriage cracks may have been off-color, but there's no way I will accept mocking GE's rock faces as body shaming.
posted by rhizome at 7:59 PM on May 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have no clue how you got character shaming from that since I explicitly said that I wasn't.

Not that it's that big a deal, but, seriously, why bring the Scarlet A up in the first place ? No disclaimer would then be needed.
posted by y2karl at 3:40 PM on May 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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