Hal Smith was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1953, and raised in La Jolla, California. He became interested in jazz after hearing the Firehouse Five Plus Two at Disneyland in the early '60s. He took up drums in 1963 and was greatly influenced by live performances by Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Fred Higuera, Smokey Stover, Wayne Jones and others. He is self-taught except for study with Jake Hanna in 1983. He has been a full-time musician since 1978.
Hal has worked with the Lawson-Haggart Jazz Band, The Jim Cullum Jazz Band (in the 1970s), Dukes of Dixieland, Davern-Wilber Summit Reunion, Black Eagle Jazz Band, Climax Jazz Band, Grand Dominion Jazz Band, Silver Leaf Jazz Band, Turk Murphy's Jazz Band, South Frisco Jazz Band, Doc Cheatham, Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield, Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Bud Freeman, Art Hodes, Marty Grosz, Ed Polcer, Vernel Bagneris, Orange Kellin, Paul Asaro, Tim Laughlin, Rebecca Kilgore and many others. He led the Roadrunners, Hal’s Angels, Down Home Jazz Band and Frisco Syncopators.
Hal says, "My main band affiliations these days are with Tim Laughlin, Connie Jones and the New Orleans All-Stars; Banu Gibson and New Orleans Hot Jazz, Bob Schulz and the Frisco Jazz Band and several Austin, Texas - based groups. I am still doing Rockabilly and Western Swing too."
Hal has made around 175 recordings on LP, CD, audio and videotape, including releases on Jazzology, Good Time Jazz, Stomp Off, Arbors, Triangle and GHB. In addition, he has produced several historical CDs for a variety of labels.
On public radio, he has performed on A Prairie Home Companion with the Butch Thompson Trio and on Riverwalk Jazz with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band and the Roadrunners. Hal has appeared on KPBS broadcasts of Club Date (with Scott Hamilton, Kenny Davern and Rebecca Kilgore) and Newton's Apple (Silver Leaf Jazz Band).
Besides working as a musician, Hal is the Assistant Director of America's Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society, San Diego and is the faculty drum instructor at the AFCDJS Adult Traditional Jazz Camp.
He serves on the board of governors of the George H. Buck, Jr. Jazz Foundation, and is the Special Projects Coordinator for the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation. Hal is a contributing writer for Jazz Rambler, American Rag, Frisco Cricket (San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation), Just Jazz (published in Great Britain) and the Bulletin of the Hot Club of France.
Hal's favorite drummers include Sid Catlett, Jo Jones, Dave Tough, Ben Pollack, Nick Fatool, Zutty Singleton, Vic Berton, Ray Bauduc, Gene Krupa, George Wettling and many others.