Dr. Lonnie Smith, the Hammond B-3 organ virtuoso who was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2017, has died. Blue Note Records confirmed the news on social media. He was 79.
Smith was born in the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, New York and grew up trying his hand at multiple instruments. In the 1960s, he was gifted a Hammond organ and carved out a career as a musician. He collaborated regularly with George Benson in the 1960s and released music as bandleader on Columbia Records. He was hired by saxophonist Lou Donaldson to perform on his hit song “Alligator Boogaloo.”
Signed to Blue Note as a bandleader in 1968, Smith released five albums for the label in the late ’60s and early ’70s. While he would continue performing and recording across multiple decades, he eventually returned to Blue Note in 2016. His final albums were All in My Mind (2018) and the Don Was-produced Breathe (2021). The latter featured multiple collaborations with Iggy Pop.