Will Smith grew up in Preservation Hall, where his sister Dodie Smith-Simmons worked and his brother-in-law trumpeter John “Kid” Simmons sometimes played. Smith used to help push Sweet Emma’s wheelchair to the car when her son came to pick her up, and most of the time she said something mean. “She was a real cantankerous old broad, but she was a great entertainer who captivated the audience,” Smith recalled. After following around his brother-in-law, Smith could not wait to get an instrument of his own. His parents eventually bought him a trumpet, and he has been playing New Orleans jazz ever since.
Hall legends Percy Humphrey, Ernie Cagnolatti, Kid Thomas, and DeDe Pierce remain a part of Smith’s musical fiber and have greatly influenced his sound. In 1975 Smith joined the Fairview Baptist Church Band, led by legendary jazzman Danny Barker, and he has played and toured with numerous traditional brass bands, including the Storyville Stompers and Harold Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band, as well as the Doc Paulin, Chosen Few, Treme, Tornado, Lil’ Rascals, and Pinstripe brass bands.