Letter to the Editor
Isotopia artist and Chicagoan Lemoyne Alexander has worn many hats as a hip-hop and R & B producer, singer and now a rock guitarist. His latest album: “Solitude” is dedicated to his father. His dad, Smitty was a session musician (drummer) at the legendary Chess Studios during the 50’s and 60’s. Here is Lemoyne’s musical Black History memory about his dad.
Growing up with my father was truly an experience… watching him sing and play percussion had a major influence on me. Smitty was a perfectionist at everything and always believed practice makes perfect! He saw something in me at an early age that I didn’t see for a long time. I was the typical teenager interested in fun and games and he was always serious, but I respected him and his drive to succeed.
My dad recognized my talent he was there for me front line and center. He taught me how to sing and use my vocal cords, and to develop a love and affection for music that I appreciate to this day. I was exposed to the music of all types from Count Basie, Wes Montgomery to Earth, Wind and Fire. He was my true teacher in life and never backed down from anything or anyone! Dad always thought before he spoke and always made me look him in his eyes when we talked. He was a man’s man and I try to live by that creed on a daily basis. I learned from him how to be myself as a person as well as a musician. He knew as a youngster I would someday be an incredible guitar player and singer someday. When we performed, he would be there playing percussion right on stage with my band!
When Smitty was a young man he was a cab driver in Chicago. Chess Records would often call him in as a session drummer. On one particular night, he was writing a song by himself in the studio, recorded the song and left it out on the music stand. The next day a major R & B singer would hear the song. Of course, no one knew it was him and no one knew who wrote the tune. According to Smitty, this singer claimed he penned the song, recorded the song and it was a giant hit! This crushed him deeply because he never saw a dime from the record. That experience taught him an invaluable lesson; he learned that he had to protect his intellectual property and he was adamant about this with me. He strongly believed he could protect me in the music business. He started his own publishing and record company and signed me and my brothers. I don’t ever remember my father admiring anyone but God.
However, he did admire Maurice White, he thought he was brilliant. He was personal friends with The Chi-Lites and befriended a smooth singer I still like today: Walter Jackson. I loved to watch the two of them work together, Walter was a huge R&B recording artist and became a member of the family. He would visit the house often and listen to my dad’s advice on music and life.
My dad believed I would become a musical talent over time. It became evident to him by me demonstrating my musicianship in all the bands that I played in. He saw my leadership develop under his tutelage. Although, I didn’t recognize my abilities and I did not even want to be a musical leader.
As I grew into my sound it became a monster and he just watched it progress and flourish. Before long he began listening to me and I began to teach him. As he watched me teach others and he would give me a smile and a thumbs up and that let me know I was doing something right! He was a man that did not express a lot of emotions. Yet, he showed me how proud he was of me. As I grew in my musicianship, he would listen to how I would produce other artists and tell me “it’s good but you need to sing again.” As time passed, he got older. He became sick and his dying wish was to see me back in the studio doing what he taught me. I began to put aside being a producer and my own creativity emerged … when I found myself, he was profoundly satisfied before making his transition. Dad knew once I got started, I wouldn’t stop until I was finished and that translated into the album SOLITUDE – Thanks, SMITTY for your love and a life of music.