In a Sentimental Mood, Johnny Smith, Roost LP 424, 1954, photo/design by Burt Goldblatt
The New Moon at The Imperial Theater, New York, advertising postcard, 1929
Johnny Smith Quintet featuring Stan Getz, Royal Roost 78 1152, 1952
Johnny Smith, circa 1954, photo by William "PoPsie" Randolf
Walk, Don't Run!, Johnny Smith, 1954
Unlike Moonlight in Vermont, Walk, Don't Run! was neither a critical nor popular success for Johnny. But as mentioned, Smith was a musician's musician and his 1950s releases were ardently admired by guitarists everywhere. One avowed fan was the ultimate Tennessee guitar picker: Chet Atkins. Atkins own recording career for RCA Victor was well underway by the time he got his hands on Smith's '54 Roost release. And due to his A&R position with his record label, by the mid-1950s he was making regular business trips to New York City where he check out Johnny Smith if he was gigging. One such night Atkins approached Smith at the bar at Birdland and asked Johnny's permission to record one his tunes. The story goes that Chet insisted on playing his arrangement for Johnny on the spot and if there was ever a fly-on-the-wall moment of choice for guitar geeks, this certainly has to be a top contender.
Walk, Don't Run, Chet Atkins, 1957
Hi-Fi in Focus, Chet Atkins, RCA Victor LPM-1577, 1957, cover photo by A.M. Baunach
Walk-Don't Run, The Ventures, Blue Horizon 45 101-1, 1959
Further reading: I highly recommend this excellent interview that fellow jazz guitarist Bart Stringham conducted with Smith on the topic. Many of the details of this saga were drawn from this particular interview. The more musicianly-minded (and you gearheads) are well advised to check out Chip Stern's in-depth homage here.