Best Blues Artist - 2003
There was a time, long ago, when blues guitar was about simplicity and soul instead of Stevie Ray Vaughan wankery. We might not remember that period, but Bennie Smith does. Smith played with luminaries such as Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner as the '50s transformed the blues into rock & roll, and he hasn't quit playing since. Sitting in a rickety wooden chair, this quintessential bluesman (he was born a seventh son, for God's sake) still blows away crowds whenever he plays. Smith's voice carries the weight of history, ramshackle and rough-hewn but still strong. His fingers have aged as smooth as Scotch, dancing effortlessly and bringing out notes so strong and pure they seem to be coming out of a time machine. As he approaches his 70th birthday, Smith remains a living treasure for the city of St. Louis.