Recording of the Month, December 2014: Roger Smith and his Talking Guitar

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

Acc. SA586

For our December recording I have resisted the temptation to select one of our many recordings which relate to Christmas. However, I feel we should end the year with a bit of fun so I have chosen a remarkable performance of musical skill and ingenuity.

Roger Smith spent his retirement living quietly in Heybridge. Previous to that he had travelled the world as a musician playing the steel guitar. As well as being able to play the pedal steel (or Hawaiian) guitar, he also built his own version of the instrument designed to imitate the human voice. We know that Roger Smith performed with Felix Mendelsohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders in the late 1940s but, unfortunately, he died before we were able to talk to him in detail about his career. If you have more information, please let us know.

This recording is taken from an instantaneous disc recorded in 1948 with the title of Nit Wit Serenade.

Eric Clapton may have been compared to God in the 1960s for his abilities as a guitarist, but could he perform the feats achieved by Roger Smith?