See: Michael's recollections below about his musical roots and earliest influences.

Michael Peter Smith was born in South Orange, New Jersey in September of 1941 and raised in the area, attending Catholic schools later referenced in a few of his songs. He bought his first guitar at age fifteen (for $5) and was soon playing in a group called The Kalypso Kids, whose first and only recording is lost in antiquity. College in Florida brought a quartet dubbed the Wanderers, with gigs on the beach and at local coffeehouses, then touring in The Talismen, a duet. It was Folk Music, and Folk Music was happening.

Three years at The Flick in Miami followed, six nights a week. There he met Barbara Barrow, who would become his wife, and they traveled with a quartet called the Baker Street Irregulars, signed a contract with Decca under the group name Juarez, and produced an eponymous vinyl recording that you can still sometimes find in the 'used' bins of obscure record stores. The couple's next recording was called Mickey and Babs Get Hot, followed by an acoustic recording of an evening at The Raven Gallery in Detroit (where they briefly resided), called Zen.

Steve Goodman had recorded "The Dutchman," and Chicago music lovers were discovering other of Smith's songs. Michael and Barbara relocated to the windy city and became regulars at venues such as The Earl of Old Town, Somebody Else's Troubles, Holstein's, No Exit and Orphan's. They played the Philadelphia Folk Festival, worked with Corky Siegel and John Prine, taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music, organized a benefit in commemoration of their friend Gamble Rogers, and separately and together continued to record. In the late 1980's Michael was asked to write the music for the Steppenwolf production of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, and he toured with that production for two years: Chicago, La Jolla, London, England, finally Broadway, (the Cort Theatre where the Marx Brothers played) and was thrilled by two Antoinette Perry awards (Tonys) for that production.

Michael began to record for Flying Fish, initially produced by Anne Hills, whom he had met when he was playing bass for Bob Gibson. He began to tour more frequently doing exclusively his own material and continued to write songs, now increasingly being recorded by other artists. He created essentially a one-man show entitled Michael, Margaret, Pat & Kate, which played at the Victory Gardens in 1994 and garnered four Joseph Jefferson awards, Chicago's equivalent of the Antoinette Perry. This was Michael's musical autobiography, and it won every Jeff it could but one.

With Jamie O'Reilly, Michael created, performed and recorded Pasiones: Songs of the Spanish Civil War, followed by Hello Dali (songs about art), Scarlet Confessions (with Anne Hills), and years later, a holiday CD/show collaboration of The Gift of the Magi. All enjoyed runs at various theatres. Michael self-produced an album of his songs called There in 2000 with the able assistance of Pat Fleming, then, with spouse Barbara Barrow, created Weavermania, celebrating the works of the Weavers. A highlight, if not the pinnacle of the Weavermania experience was a concert where Pete Seeger played onstage with them.

More albums followed, including Live at Dark Thirty, Such Things Are Finely Done, Just Plain Folk (recorded with John McDermott), Michael Peter Smith-Anthology One, Love Letter on a Fish, and, in 2008, the soundtrack to a childrens' production he wrote and performed in called The Selfish Giant, which featured the puppet wizardry of Blair Thomas.

Amidst all of that, he composed the score for a production of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, in which both he and Barbara performed beginning in 2006 and enjoying additional runs in subsequent years at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, under the direction of Frank Galati.

Michael Smith continues to travel, playing concert halls house concerts, clubs and festivals, and his prolific songwriting has never waned, with now close to 500 original tunes in his impressive catalog.

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MUSICAL ROOTS (Michael's recollections):

I was born in Newark New Jersey in 1941. The first music I remember hearing was The Nutcracker Suite, a recording by Spike Jones. It scared me to death. I still can't see the words Mouse King in print without getting chills. I also was quite frightened by the melody of "Dardanella", which sounded diabolical to me, along with the Irish tune "A Stack Of Barley", a melody that seemed as if it would never stop. When I read about cultures where music is forbidden or linked to the devil I can sympathize with those primitive cats for about thirty seconds, but finally my feeling is that if a three-year-old can get over it you can too.

When I was five my Aunt Mamie taught me to sing for company: "The Boston Burglar", "Paddy McGinty's Goat" and "Who Put The Overalls In Mrs. Murphy's Chowder".

When I was ten my favorite recording artists were Roy Rogers, Phil Harris, Frankie Laine, Jerry Lewis, and Les Paul and Mary Ford. My favorite songwriter was Cole Porter. I wanted to live in the world of "Begin The Beguine" and "Night And Day".

When I was fourteen I discovered Caterina Valente, with whom I shall be forever in love. I bought all her singles, with the Werner Muller Orchestra, on Decca. Fifty years later I still listen to her singing "The Breeze And I", over and over and over. It's a wonderful, eternal recording. I think she was twenty or so when she did it. I was crazy about Elvis Presley for a minute. His first record was great.

When I heard Johnny Ace singing "Pledging My Love", I got a glimpse of the adult world and also how sexy vibes could sound on a recording. There was a story that Johnny Ace died in a game of Russian Roulette, which was fine with me, very adult. I loved "Earth Angel" by The Penguins and "In The Still Of The Night" by The Five Satins (not Cole Porter's) and "Teardrops" by Lee Andrews and the Hearts, and to this day my favorite music is doowop. I sang bass with an a capella doowop group in high school (Passaic Valley Regional, in Little Falls, New Jersey). At that time I thought singing bass meant you sang the melody, only an octave down. What did I know? We wore red sweaters with big white T's on them, for The Teenclefs, and we had dance moves. We cut a record in the back of Sal's Barber Shop in Great Notch, watching the wax curl up from the disc as we sang. We might have done the dance moves while we recorded. It was a heavenly time.

When I was fifteen Harry Belafonte came along with his great calypso songs and his great presence and that's when I decided to learn to play the guitar, and the first song I wrote was a calypso setting of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem called "Requiem". The Kingston Trio followed shortly and I loved so many of their songs too, plus they played guitars the way I wanted to, great rhythms and a chordal sense that never got old. I still listen to the Kingston Trio too.

For a long time I thought I was a folksinger, because I liked to sing folk songs.

When I was twenty-three or so I realized that I was probably a songwriter, though for a few years I confined my writing to what I thought of as satiric tunes, in the style of Tom Lehrer, Phil Ochs and the Mitchell Trio. I was living then in Coconut Grove, Florida, and worked six nights a week for three years at a coffeehouse, The Flick, where my employer wanted funny.

It took me quite a while but I finally picked up on The Beatles around Sergeant Pepper and now I will never be free. Thank God for The White Album.

My wife Barbara and I live in Chicago and I am fortunate to be able to explore recording at home, to travel and do concerts, to be in plays and to write songs, some of which I can hardly believe are mine. Nothing ever as scary as The Nutcracker Suite, though.

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