Sitting behind a hulking Hammond B3 organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban. Few people know whether the man some guidebooks say is 62 earned a doctorate in medicine or music. The answer? Neither. One story has it that he earned his “Dr.” moniker from his fellow musicians as a tribute to his ability to “doctor up” their music, although he might have just appropriated the nickname in the mid-1970s to distinguish himself from keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith.
And what about that turban? Smith claims it’s an authentic Sikh wrap, though the Buffalo, N.Y., native seems more Baptist than Sikh.