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Guitarist Johnny Smith Dead at 90

Writer of ‘Walk, Don’t Run!’ retired from active performing in 1958

Johnny Smith teaching at University of Utah in 1981
Johnny Smith

Johnny Smith, a guitarist who made his impact in the 1940s and ’50s, then retired from performing to open a music shop, died of natural causes June 11 in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was 90.

Although he was an active player whose greatest successes came in 1952 with the album Moonlight in Vermont (featuring saxophonist Stan Getz) and its title track, Smith is best remembered as the author of the instrumental “Walk, Don’t Run!,” which he wrote in 1954. A rock and roll version, recorded in 1959, became a No. 2 hit for the Ventures the following year. Chet Atkins, Herb Alpert and others also recorded popular versions of the song. Among guitarists his work is highly revered and influential; his cool-toned, technically accomplished attack made Moonlight essential listening for aspiring players.

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