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Playing Around: Hammer Smith Band



In the early '70s, going by the name of Hammer was still pretty cool. The name hadn't yet been associated with parachute pants, too much gold jewelry, break dancing or the looped sampling of Super Freak.

I suspect that's why sometime in the '80s, Hammer became Hammer Smith, and then eventually, the Hammer Smith Band. What else was a harp-playing, steel guitar--strumming, white boy from California to do during the MC Hammer years? Back then, if he had put "Hammer" on a billboard, both the band and the audience would have been in for a big surprise.

Hammer Smith pretty much holds his own these days. Touring with the Hammer Smith Band, he's played colleges and clubs coast to coast, toured Canada and brought his sound overseas. The band has had the distinction of opening for Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Winter and B.B. King. King liked them so much that he gave them a permanent gig as the house band at his blues club in Hollywood.

Luckily you don't have to go all the way to Hollywood to check out the Hammer Smith Band. They bring their full-bodied traditional blues sound to Tres Hombres on Saturday night. And let's hope that the altitude doesn't affect Hammer's madman-style harp playing. Many of his solos go for minutes. You know he's got to get a breath in there somewhere, but every note seems to stem from the same one breath.

The band has been together for almost 20 years now. They've had time to cultivate their sound and perfect their live shows. And if that's not enough inspiration to motivate your ass up the pass, know this: They've recorded with just about everyone, including Michael Jackson, John Tesh, Paul McCartney and Camper Van Beethoven. You know they've got some stories to tell.

-- Suzanne Becker

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