Life Member. Piano
2/28/1933 – 11/24/2019
by Paul Gormley, Life Member
Howlett Smith was a unique pianist, singer, whistler, composer, and lyricist who I had the pleasure of working with for more than 25 years. Smitty’s career was mainly as musical entertainer in live venues. He performed at Bob Burns restaurant in Santa Monica for 10 years, left to play at Sterlings in Santa Monica for 10 years, then returned to Bob Burns for a 20(!)-year run. He had a fan base that ranged from non-musicians to jazz DJ Chuck Niles and singer Mark Murphy.
While live performance was his forte, he was music director for Linda Hopkins’ Broadway show “Me and Bessie.” He composed hundreds of songs. He wrote “The Carpenter” which was a full length spiritual show about the life of Jesus, that included a 20-person choir. His song “Little Alter Boy” was recorded by Vic Dana, Andy Williams, Karen Carpenter, and Glen Campbell. His song “Let’s Go Where the Grass is Greener” was recorded by Nancy Wilson, Steve and Eydie, Blossom Dearie, and several others. It was the title song for one of his numerous recordings. I’m proud to say that I produced and played on that recording.
Besides these more well-known pieces, he wrote very funny comedy songs. Everyone who heard “An Ugly Woman Told Me No” about a guy who couldn’t get a girl or “ChitIins in the White House” when Bill Clinton was elected would hold their sides with laughter. The first time I heard “Ugly Woman,” I stopped playing because I was laughing so hard.
Howlett was an important mentor to many young singers. He held classes at El Camino College and the World Stage helping upcoming talent polish their music. He was known to be a tough but beloved taskmaster.
Smitty passed this last November at the age of 86. He leaves behind a large family including grandchildren, great grandchildren, and many friends and fans.