When Hal Smith plays, the spirits of George Wettling, Zutty Singleton and Dave Tough smile.  Whether it’s small group swing, San Francisco Jazz, 1920s classics or freewheeling Eddie Condon jazz, his playing lifts up the music with taste, class and subtle ideas.

— Scott Yanow, Jazz Historian and Journalist.  http://www.scottyanow.com

Hal Smith took up the drums in 1963, and became a full-time professional musician in 1978. He has played with many of the best Traditional Jazz and Swing bands including the Dukes of Dixieland, Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, Butch Thompson Trio, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Bob Schulz’s Frisco Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Yerba Buena Stompers, the Fat Babies and others. Hal has also played Western Swing (Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition; Jason Roberts Band); Rockabilly (Memphis Speed Kings, the Hayriders, Gino and the Lone Gunmen, Cash Kings, Big Rig Deluxe) and Blues (James Harman, Junior Watson, Nathan James/Ben Hernandez, Blue Largo, Johnny Rover, Billy Watson).

Hal has performed on Minnesota Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” Texas Public Radio’s “Riverwalk – Live From The Landing,” numerous television programs and on over 200 recordings.

Currently Hal lives in Searcy, Arkansas.  He leads the On The Levee Jazz Band


OTL onstage at Old U.S. Mint

Photo credit: Bobby Bonsey

Hal also plays drums with:

  • The Kris Tokarski Trio (New Orleans)
  • Tim Laughlin (New Orleans)
  • Banu Gibson and Hot Jazz, Inc. (New Orleans)
  • Capt. John Royen’s New Orleans Rhythm (New Orleans)
  • Floyd Domino’s All-Stars (Austin)
  • Dan Walton and the Jump Swing Imperials (Austin)
  • Brooks Prumo Orchestra (San Antonio)
  • Jeff Barnhart and the Hot Jazz Collective (U.S.A.)

Hal was one of the founders of America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society’s Adult Traditional Jazz Camp, which began in 1995.  Currently Hal is on the faculty of the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp, where he lectures on Jazz history, supervises student ensembles, performs with the faculty band and offers private instruction on drums.


Hal was influenced by hearing Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Wayne Jones and Fred Higuera in live performance.  He has also studied the recordings of drummers Sid Catlett, Dave Tough, Zutty Singleton, Jo Jones, Minor Hall, Andrew Hilaire, George Wettling, Morey Feld, Gene Krupa, Harry Dial, Johnny Wells, Vic Berton, Stan King, Ray Bauduc, Bill Dart, Monte Mountjoy and more.

For over a decade, Hal produced CDs for the George H. Buck Jr. Jazz Foundation and the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation and wrote liner notes for most of those releases.

Hal has also written many sets of liner notes as well as articles for publications across the U.S. and in Europe.  (For details, please click on the link for the WRITING page).


Hal Smith plays LUDWIG drums and SABIAN cymbals.