The Soulful Sounds of Wichita’s Smart Brothers Band has gained a much deserved recognition: a place in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. The Band was one of five inductees into the hall of fame established in 2004 to recognize Kansas and Kansas City Metro Area musicians’ contribution to music in Kansas and across the world.
The Smart Brothers Band was a Wichita favorite in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. While the group’s membership and name changed over the decades, they always stayed true to their soulful roots. The group was primarily composed of the Smart Brothers – there were eight of them – who played instruments and knew how to entertain an audience.
The brothers were known for their great showmanship. John and Leroy Smart were the band’s animated front line. John was known for popping handstands and back flipping at the climatic end of a song, and for dancing while balancing his saxophone on the back of his neck. Leroy “Iron Jaw” Smart’s moves were even more unbelievable. He’d warm up with some handstands and back-flips, then jump off the stage into the splits, pick up a table or chair by his teeth and toss it aside.
Bass-playing brother Dick was the businessman of the bunch. He was the power behind the Smart’s soul empire that included a band, club, restaurant, record store, and record label. For decades, the band could be found playing music at the family’s Smarts Place, a restaurant and club in Wichita’s historic 9th Street business area.
The band took its place in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame earlier this month at an induction ceremony held at Lawrence’s Liberty Hall. The brothers were among the groups that played at the ceremony.
Other inductees this year included: Samuel Ramey, an operatic baritone from Colby, KS,; the Elk River Biscuit and Gravy Band, Emporia; Stone Wall, Kansas City; Trampled Under Foot, Kansas City; Alan Bell, of America’s Best Attractions, Kansas City; and Caribe, Lawrence.
The Smart Brothers join other greats with Kansas roots in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, including: Count Basie, Bobby Watson and Charlie Parker. Another early inductee into the Hall of Fame was another Wichita star, Rudy Love.
If you’re lucky, you can get a rare chance to hear the Smart Brothers when they perform for family members or fundraisers in the Wichita area. Love joined the Smart Brothers in a Wichita at a recent fund-raising event. See photos from that event in this issue Page 15.
If you’d like to hear a snipit of the Smart Brothers sound, go to this site.