Celebrating the Winston-Salem Sound (Live at the Ramkat 2018)

"Thanks For The Modulations , Mr. Smith" by Chris Stamey

R.J. Reynolds High School, in Winston-Salem, was the site of the actual Combo Corner in the 60s and 70s. And not only are members of the dB's, Let's Active, Sacred Irony, and Captain Speed, among others, alums, but a bit later Ben Folds and film director Phil Morrison passed through its doors. In the 70s, in the days before high school arts budgets were gutted nationwide, a jazz pianist and arranger named Bob Smith taught a real Music Theory course at Reynolds. And changed my life. He wasn't sugarcoating it, either. It was Bach, Gershwin. And very pragmatic. I remember asking him, "How do you modulate?" and he said, simply, "Find a way to get to the V7 of the new key." Aha! Brilliant. A door opened. He was so clear, and so deep. Mitch Easter was in the classes as well. I don't think I encountered anything new in music theory at UNC for the first two years there. Bob Smith rewired my brain, he opened up a new world for me, and I'm forever grateful.

There was only one time when I had to correct him. Coming from a jazz background, he thought song credits always listed the music guy first, lyricist second ("Rogers and Hart"), so he felt sure that Lennon had written all the music for the Beatles, with McCartney supplying just the words.


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