Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, 1/19/36 - 9/16/11

By Ms. Marci
October 2011

Though some may be able to argue otherwise, there was something very magic about The Muddy Waters Band that I met for the first time in 1976. We blues fans know that there were many notable musicians in the band before and after then, but I have a special place in my heart for those particular band members. Those men were not only highly credible blues musicians, but some of the nicest, down-to-earth kind of people you'd ever want to meet! We (the blues community) lost Muddy 0n April 30, 1983, then bassist Calvin "Fuzz" Jones passed away on August 9, 2010, and just this past March 21, 2011, we lost Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, but yet another has passed on from that lineup, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith! Willie was best known as Muddy Waters' drummer for around 15 years, but he was also quite an accomplished harmonica player (Willie played the harmonica on the Bo Diddley classic "Diddy Wah Diddy"), songwriter and vocalist, and recently won a Grammy for "Best Traditional Blues Album, 2010" for Joined At The Hip that he recorded with long time friend and bandmate Pinetop Perkins.

Beyond the blues association I enjoyed with Willie, he was a great friend! I loved talking with him. He was such a great talker and listener, too! I also had the pleasure of sitting in with him many times before and after The Muddy Waters Band and he always made me feel like I was part of "the family" backstage, before and after the shows. The last time I saw him (with Pinetop and Bob Stroger) was around May, 2010 at a show in NY at a college. We hung around in the green room before the show. We all laughed, ate, and caught up on things that had happened since we last spoke. I told him that every time I saw them, I hoped it wouldn't be the last time. At that time I was most concerned with Pinetop passing on ... which he did. I never thought we'd lose him, too!

I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around him being gone, but thanks to some really sweet memories and all the wonderful recordings he left behind, he will never be forgotten. R.I.P. dear friend!

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