Ethel Smith (organist)

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Ethel Smith
Ethel Smith Billboard.jpg
Ethel Goldsmith

(1902-11-22)November 22, 1902
DiedMay 10, 1996(1996-05-10) (aged 93)
Years activec.1925–1993
Spouse(s)Mr. Spiro (m. <1940) [1]
(m. 19451947)
Parent(s)Elizabeth Bober [1]
Max Goldsmith [1]

Ethel Smith (November 22, 1902 [1] [2] – May 10, 1996) was an American organist who played primarily in a pop style on the Hammond organ.


Early life and career

Born Ethel Goldsmith, she performed from a fairly young age and traveled widely, after studying both music and several languages at Carnegie Tech. She became proficient in Latin music while staying in South America, and it is the style of music with which she is now most associated. She was a guitarist as well as an organist, and in her later years occasionally played the guitar live for audiences, but all her recordings were on the organ. She ultimately recorded dozens of albums, mostly for Decca Records. [1]

Film and recording career

Smith performed in several Hollywood films such as George White's Scandals (1945) and Melody Time (1948). She was married to Hollywood actor Ralph Bellamy from 1945 to 1947, at the height of her fame, and their acrimonious divorce made headlines. [3] She never had children. [1]

Her rendition of "Tico Tico" became her best-known hit. She performed it in the MGM film Bathing Beauty (1944), after which her recording reached the U.S. pop charts in November 1944, peaked at #14 on January 27, 1945, and sold nearly two million copies worldwide. [4] [5]

"Down Yonder" was her second national hit, reaching #16 on October 27, 1951. [6]

Smith's recording of "Monkey on a String" became the theme song for Garfield Goose and Friends , a popular children's television show in Chicago that ran from 1952 until 1976. [7]


Smith died on May 10, 1996, at age 93. [8]

Selected works


(Fifi) Bring her Out Again / Sleigh Ride, Brunswick 04517




Music books

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Brown, Matthew; Galand, Elizabeth (2000). "Ethel Smith: Weird Organ Lady or Mongo Organista?". Cool and Strange Music! (18): 16–19. Retrieved July 1, 2014. Although she publicly gave her birthdate as November 22, 1910, she was actually born in 1902. An early marriage to a Mr. Spiro had ended in divorce before 1940.
  2. "Social Security Death Index" . Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  3. "Married". Time. September 10, 1945. Retrieved June 17, 2008. Ralph Bellamy, 41, veteran stage (Tomorrow the World) and screen (Guest in the House) actor; and Ethel Smith, 32, thin, Tico-Tico-famed cinema electric organist (Bathing Beauty); he for the third time, she for the second; in Harrison, N.Y.
  4. "Disks With Most Radio Plugs" (PDF). Billboard . 57 (4): 16. January 27, 1945. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  5. Ankeny, Jason. "Ethel Smith Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  6. "Most Played Juke Box Records" (PDF). Billboard. 63 (43): 38. October 27, 1951. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  7. Okuda, Ted; Mulqueen, Jack (2004). The Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television. Lake Claremont Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN   978-1893121171 . Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  8. "Ethel Smith, radio and film organist, dies". Cox News Service. May 18, 1996. Ethel Smith, a professional organist whose music enlivened the beat on radio's Lucky Strike Hit Parade and Carmen Miranda films, died in Palm Beach Friday. She was 93.
  9. "Album Reviews". Billboard. 75 (4): 37. January 26, 1963. Retrieved May 1, 2013.