National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame Inductee Returns to Vermont
By Chris Applin
The story of 11-year-old Richard Smith joining Chet Atkins on stage is legend, and foretold a bright future: British-born Smith had learned fingerstyle guitar listening to Atkins’ recordings, so when Chet played a date in England, it was arranged that Smith would join him on stage. Richard selected “Whispering Pines” to play, and at the conclusion Chet, along with the 1,000 in attendance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, was so impressed that he coaxed the bashful Smith to return to the stage to play another song: “Little Rock Getaway.” Atkins was so mesmerized that he stopped playing, stunned with Smith’s skill.
Richard Smith was born in 1971 in Beckenham, England, and began playing guitar when he was five, inspired by watching his father picking the Atkins and Travis version of “Down South Blues.” Richard says he remembers “begging” his dad to show him the fingerpicking style. Smith was quickly recognized as a child prodigy, and it was only a few years later when Atkins would bestow high praise upon him, describing Richard as “the most amazing guy I know on the guitar. He can play anything I know, only better.”
Richard performed throughout the 1990s with brothers Rob and Sam in the Richard Smith Trio before marrying Julie Adams, an accomplished cellist, and moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2000. Once there, Richard founded The Hot Club of Nashville, a band with a varying lineup that included John Jorgenson, Pat Bergeson, Bryon Sutton, and Stuart Duncan combining jazz and western swing, and a year later he won the prestigious National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship in 2001 at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. Richard tours around the world with a repertoire that includes fingerpicking classics, bluegrass, fiddle tunes, originals, blues, ragtime, jazz standards and everything from pop to Sousa marches. He has performed and recorded with Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel (who remarked: “If you like my playing, you should love Richard Smith! The world champion!”)
The National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame named Smith Thumbpicker of the Year in 2008 and again in 2021; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. Watch Richard perform Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” on YouTube, with more than 12 million views, to see why he received the Golden Thumbpick Award from the Association of Fingerstyle Guitarists in 2011.
Visit richardsmithmusic.com to learn more about him, but, most of all, don’t miss the opportunity — Friday, Sept. 30, at the CVU Theater — to hear one of the brilliant acoustic guitarists on tour today in a space beautifully designed for such a listening experience.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at sevendaystickets.com for $20 plus tax and fees, or at the door on the night of the performance with cash or personal check ONLY. We hope to see you there! If you have any questions about the performance do not call CVUHS, instead, phone 802-355-9151. Thanks.