remembering curt

Former Vengeance Incorporated lead-guitarist Curt Smith, a brave and loyal friend as well as a beloved father, husband, brother and son, passed away last week.

Besides being a great friend, Curt Smith was one of the best guitarists to come out of the 1980s-90s US power metal scene. Curt’s style and influences encompassed everything from metal (Michael Schenker, Randy Rhodes) to rock and roll (Johnny Winter) to country and pop. Curt always played to the song, favoring melodic leads that respected the chord pattern instead of simply playing fast and using flashy tricks and stunt guitar, although he could play blisteringly fast when the song called for speed.

Curt also wasn’t one to jump around or adopt guitar-god poses on stage. He just mostly stood there and played his ass off. The combination of avoiding cheap flashy gimmick playing and showing off caused some people to miss the genius of his playing, but other musicians and fans alike who took the time to actually listen knew he was probably the best soloist to come out of Central Florida in the metal era, when Tampa Bay was a hotbed of metal acts like Savatage (Avatar), Argus, Siren, Nasty Savage and Vengeance Incorporated. Club managers and tour managers alike tapped Curt’s band to open for acts like Dokken, Savatage, Slaughter and Iron Maiden’s Paul Di’anno.

Another aspect of Curt’s personality was a complete lack of ego. In an era where “lead guitarist” was pretty much synonymous with “big headed asshole” Curt was probably the most humble guy you’d ever meet. And not only did he not brag on himself, I personally never heard him run down anyone else’s playing, another favorite sport for most lead guitarists.

In fact, he would always find something unique or interesting about any band we would see together, and he usually told them so later backstage. He was also a lot more patient than me about taking the time to talk to novice guitarists and answer they questions about his playing and his gear. He was generous with advice and his time and I never heard him put anyone down for asking a beginner’s question. He treated people with respect, which is probably one of the main reasons he was so respected.

Curt also composed songs on the keyboards and sang both lead and harmony vocals. He was even an accomplished drummer who demoed the drum pattern for some of his compositions for Vengeance’s drummer.

This video shows Curt in the studio, live and in some of his guitar instruction videos. Mike and I would usually do live on-camera interviews, and Curt was completely uninterested in that sort of thing. For an entertainer, he was actually kind of reserved and shy about that sort of thing. However, when the chance came for the band to be spotlighted on Bobby Bond’s Metal Shop, a popular local show that aired on the mandated local segment of MTV (local cable used to get a few hours a day on cable networks like MTV to run their own shows) I came up with the idea of showing how Curt laid down his intricate harmony lead solos, and since we owned our own studio, it was easy to separate the tracks so he could spotlight the different parts.

Curt will be missed by not only his family and friends, but by his fans and fellow musicians who recognized him as the unique and special talent he was. We love you Curt, and you are remembered forever.

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