Jimmy Smith (December 8, 1925 [birth year is disputed and is often given as 1928] â€“ February 8, 2005) was a jazz musician whose performances on the Hammond B-3 electric organ helped to popularize this instrument. In 2005, Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.
Born James Oscar Smith and originally a pianist, Smith switched to organ in 1953 after hearing Wild Bill Davis. He purchased his first Hammond organ, rented a warehouse to practice in and emerged after little more than a year with an exciting new sound which was to completely revolutionize the way in which the instrument could be played. On hearing him playing in a Philadelphia club, Blue Note's Alfred Lion immediately signed him to the label and with his second album, also known as The Champ, quickly established Smith as a new star on the jazz scene. He was a prolific recording artist and as a leader, recorded around 40 sessions for Blue Note in just 8 years beginning in 1956. His most notable albums from this period include The Sermon!, House Party, Home Cookin' ,.