In 1945, Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith recorded a guitar instrumental titled where he got his nickname “Guitar Boogie”. It was one of the first “hillbilly boogie” styles. The song sold about three million copies and reached widespread to audiences. It was the first guitar instrumental to reach the Billboard Country Charts and became the first to crossover in pop music. “Guitar Boogie” has been translated and recorded by many artists, including Alvino Rey and His Orchestra, Billy Vaughn, and Waddo & Charley. It is among the melodies talked about as the main record to influence rock and roll.
Guitar Boogie Style
“Guitar Boogie” is an uptempo twelve-bar boogie-style instrumental and is patterned after older boogie-woogie piano pieces. Smith performs the piano parts on guitar, alternating between boogie rhythmic patterns and soloing. Originally a jazz musician, Smith explained, “I guess I picked that [boogie-woogie] from Tommy Dorsey’s ‘Boogie Woogie’, ’cause I didn’t listen to country or blues, I listened to the big band in those days”.
When Smith first recorded “Guitar Boogie” in 1945, he recorded it with the Rambler Trio, Don Reno on rhythm guitar and Roy Lear on bass. There was little information on what type of guitar Smith used for the recording, several sources identify it as an acoustic guitar and others as an electric guitar. The piece was released under the name “the Rambler Trio featuring Arthur Smith” by the independent Super Disc Records label.
In October 1948, MGM Records (which had purchased Super Disc and Smith’s contract) re-released the instrumental under the name “Arthur (Guitar Boogie) Smith and His Cracker-Jacks”. In 1949, “Guitar Boogie” re-emerged in the charts as is reached number 8 spot and stayed seven weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart and number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As an early popular example of hillbilly boogie, it is a link between 1940s Western swing and honky-tonk and 1950s rockabilly.