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Former SNL leader and Stroudburg native GE Smith joins Bad Company drummer on Sellersville – The Morning Call

The two legendary artists reunite for an evening of guitar blues and classical rock when guitarist J. Smith and British drummer Simon Kirk (Free, Bad Company) hold a tour of “We Rock U Roll” at the Sellersville Theater X on Saturday night

Smith, a native of Stroudsburg and often performs in the theater, is no stranger to music lovers. He served as guitarist for Daryl Hall and John Oates during their formative years in the 1980s, appearing on albums with hit monsters such as Kiss on My List and Private Eyes. He was with them in Philadelphia at the Live Aid Festival in 1985, where he also played with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner.

Smith later became the music director of Saturday Night Live. The position he held for 10 years before returning to tour as a sideman with artists such as Bob Dylan and Roger Waters.

Although they have worked together from time to time in the past, Smith and Kirk’s performance was the first time the couple brought friendship and love for music on the road.

I recently spoke with GE Smith about the upcoming performance of “We Rock U Roll” in Sellersville (8pm on Saturday), his upbringing in Stroudsburg and more in this exclusive new interview.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What do you like most about performing at The Sellersville Theater?

J. Smith: Well, one great thing is that I will be able to stay at my brother’s house in Stroudsburg [laughs]. Sellersville is a good theater. I like that city. There is a nice hotel nearby where we will have dinner and many people I know from the area will also come to the concert. These are the people I grew up with.

What can fans expect from your performance with Simon Kirk?

Simon has been one of my favorite drummers since working with Free. I’ve always loved his game because it has a special feel. Obviously, we’re going to do “All Right Now” because Simon sings it so beautifully. We will also perform a few Bad Company and many other songs. It’s good rock and guitar music.

Do you have any musical memories from the time you grew up in the Lichai Valley?

I have tons. Ever since I was about eleven and I started performing, we went to see as many bands as we could. I saw Nazz and Roy Buchanan perform in Allentown. At the time I was growing up, there was a lot of music in this area and I played a lot there over the years. It’s always been a great place to play.

I want to ask you about your time working with Daryl Hall and John Oates. How did you contact them?

Back in the mid-70s they had big hits from “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl”, but then the music business changed a bit and they went slow. I came around the summer of 1979 when they were in the studio and needed a guitarist. Someone recommended me and I went to meet Daryl at his apartment. As soon as I walked in, I said, “Hey, aren’t you from the Reading area? I’m from Stroudsburg. “

We started talking about Pennsylvania, and that’s it. Then after I was hired, we went on a road trip and I was paid $ 200 a week. $ 100 for playing the guitar and another $ 100 for driving one of the station wagons. Then we played in bars and small venues, but soon their records started to take off.

Did you know that the songs they wrote at the time, such as “Kiss On My List” and “Private Eyes,” would be special?

After we recorded about three-quarters of “Private Eyes,” we all said, “It’s a hit!” These guys are such wonderful singers, and Daryl has written wonderful songs. It made it easy. If you have really good songs to start with, you’re more than halfway there.

At the Live Aid Festival in Philadelphia, you not only performed with Daryl and John, but also supported other artists. What can you tell me about that day?

I remember standing on the side of the stage and watching Led Zeppelin and then supporting Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and others. I’m a bar band guitarist from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and now, lo and behold, I’m playing with these people. It was a dream.

How did you manage to become the music director of “Saturday Night Live?”

I was married to Gilda Radner for a while, and last year when she was on the show, I was about “SNL” so I knew everyone. When they returned for a new season in 1985, Howard Shore [original SNL music director] did more scores for films. He told Lorna Michaels that he was leaving the show, and offered me as a replacement. At the time, Daryl and John had worked hard for six years in a row and wanted to take a break, so I lost my job. It fit exactly.

What is your best experience as a music director?

There were a bunch of the best. When Valerie Bertinelli hosted the show and was married to Eddie Van Halen, he came along with her. I had an office upstairs and Eddie came in and hung out. One day we were sitting there and he took an acoustic guitar and started doing his thing.

He was so kind that I asked him if he wanted to sit with the band. He told me he had this lollipop he was working on, so we wrote a little song around it, and here we were. After two years on the show I asked Lorna to let me invite the guitarists to sit down when they were in town. Thanks to that we got guys like Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy and David Gilmore. This should be commonplace.

You toured with Bob Dylan and were even asked to be the music director of his 30th anniversary show at Madison Square Garden. How was it working with Bob?

Just playing with Bob was the most fantastic experience. I learned a lot from him.

When the 30th came, I was no longer touring with him, but they asked me to help. I remember they gave me a list of performers ’phone numbers to call and ask what Dylan song they would like to sing. I already knew such guys [Tom] Small and [Neil] Young and a bunch of others from SNL, but I remember being afraid to call Johnny Cash [laughs]but he was wonderful.

Are there other projects you are currently working on?

Right now, this is the case with Simon. I’ve known him for many years and we’ve played together from time to time, but this is the first time we’ve decided to put something together and do a few shows. We’re also going to go to the studio to record some stuff. Not sure if we’ll make a record, but I’ll put some of it off until it’s fresh.

What would you call the greatest musical moment of your career?

I remember being in London one night when I was touring with Bob Dylan. We always started with an electric set and then, in the middle, switched to an acoustic guitar. Bob would do whatever he wanted while I stood to his right and followed him. I remember looking around, I saw George Harrison standing by the stage and smiling at me and all these famous musicians that I always listened to in the audience. We started doing “Mr. Tambourine Man, ”and came to the line that sounds like“ Dancing under a diamond sky, waving one hand freely, ”a line I’ve always loved. At that moment, I seemed to come out of my body, look at myself and say, “What are you doing here? You’re just a guy from Stroudsburg! ” It was very cool.

James Wood is a freelancer for The Morning Call. Follow him on Twitter @JimEWood

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sellersville Theater

How much: From $ 35

Tickets and information: st94.com/

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