Fretless Guitarist, Newbie Brad (February 16, 1961 to December 15, 2016)

R.I.P. Brad Smith (February 16, 1961 to December 15, 2016)

It is with a very sad heart I have to report that Brad Smith, AKA “Newbie Brad” passed away yesterday at 55 years old. He had told me last Sunday he only had six months left on this earth, but in truth it was less than six days.

I had known Brad since April 2004 when he became an active member of the Unfretted Forum contributing thousands of posts and becoming one of the core members and Admins. You can still read these posts, if you get time, and have a little insight into his humour and kindness.

He helped with the legal side of things when I was drawing up artist’s contracts for the Village of the Unfretted double CD and his duo “Newbie Brad and Pantha” (3 Pups Music) featured their track “Return to Unfretted”.

We first met in person at CBGBs in New York to watch the Tom Baker quartet, on the Friday night before the First New York Fretless Festival. He was there with Pantha (John Lee Hughes Jr) and the first to welcome me and my wife, Marina.

Newbie Brad
Newbie Brad at NYC fretless festival 2005

We hung out and generally had a great time but it would be a year until we met again at the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival in 2007.

Newbie Brad mirror
In Den Haag – note the reflection in the mirror on the left.

The DFGF gang
From left to right: Brad Smith, Willem Niehorster, Gary Cocoran, Pantha, Marina, Jahloon.

Above is the picture of the gang in Den Haag, freezing as it is February, I remember Brad saying he had never laughed so much in his life after our escapades, at one time there were tears of laughter running down his face. You can see why on this page.


Newbie Brad

Our last meeting was NYC in 2008 lots of good food and company, miss you buddy….

Additional Material

Radio interview with Brad & 3 Pups music

5 thoughts on “Fretless Guitarist, Newbie Brad (February 16, 1961 to December 15, 2016)

  1. Kai Matthews here:

    Reproducing my FB comments, on the context of Brad’s death, in a year of great musical losses which for me began exactly one year before:

    Oh, man, this Annus Horribilus of 2016 just won’t let up, it seems, as much on the musical front as in the fates of nations. As my hometown neighbour and erstwhile fellow piano student Charly Roth, one of the nicest and most talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, sadly noted today, this year from hell began for him and others of us exactly a year ago, even before the calendar turned, when his brother and partner in music Adam died from a scarily rapid form of cancer.

    And now I hear via my international fretless guitarist community that one of our own, Brad Smith of Nashville, whom we’d known was ill, is gone today.

    The cliché “gentle giant” (he was big and tall) will undoubtably be invoked in many remembrances, but it’s apt. He was a gentle-man in every sense, full of humour and enthusiasm, unfailingly supportive of others’ efforts, and decent, thoughtful, and conscientious (as when he joined me in objecting to an ugly, degrading, misogynist image used in some promotional material.)

    I only met Brad in person once myself, during the several days of the first NYC Fretless Guitar Festival back in 2005; we had all communicated prior to that via the Unfretted website, during the planning stages and the production of the compilation CD “Village of the Unfretted” to which many of us contributed. The night before the festival began (IIRC), Brad, his musical partner Pantha (who plays an electronic wind instrument), the Unfretted webmaster Jeff Berg and his wife Marina, in from Liverpool, and I went to see Seattle fretless player and avant-garde jazzer Tom Baker’s quintet at CBGB’s side venue. (I later bought my fretless Strat from Tom.) The way Brad beamed (“Isn’t this great?!”, his expression said) from the very first piece set the tone for his interactions with all of us over the next few days. He cheerfully filled in for a fretless blues guitarist’s bass player who couldn’t attend, at a set at the Knitting Factory, using an octave pedal.

    In the Unfretted forum, in among the joking around and the serious technical talk, he often told us of the various goings-on in Nashville, which experiences he often had with the woman he always referred to as “The World’s Best Girlfriend”. My condolences go out to her and to John (Pantha.)

    He enriched our lives in sometimes hilarious ways, such as the time he turned Jeff on to the pungent delights of kimchee, posting a jar of it from Nashville to Liverpool and alarming Jeff’s postman. Willem Niehorster and Gary Corcoran, among other European fretlessers, can testify to the fun they had with him at the Dutch International Fretless Guitar Festival.

    RIP, Brad. You’ve left a gap that can never be filled.

  2. I’ve read some of the tributes to NB, Newbie Brad or “The Big Fella” and despite the fact I don’t really do “RIP” posts, in this very special case I feel compelled to contribute.

    Except I find myself staring at a blank page. Well not a page, but one of those field thingies on my screen designed as a receptacle for poor quality interweb ascii hot air babble in which I seem to excel.

    ’Tis pointless one saying things like “I’m sad” or with great sorrow, as it goes without saying and sounds a bit daft…

    Then there is the old chestnut “For those that knew him…”, to be honest, if you did know him, you’d have an inkling of what I’m trying to type – and if you didn’t know him, then it really is your loss. That said I didn’t know him anywhere near as well as I would like to have done – distance etc. y’know…

    A brief volley of anecdotes would now normally commence but the last time I physically saw him was when he dropped off L and I at Nashville airport. That was in 2008! Time escapes with far too much enthusiasm.

    I don’t have any embarrassing tales about NB, like for example say, if he’d trodden in dog shit or sat on an old woman’s head by accident. I don’t remember him doing or saying anything remotely stupid, though he did like a good (or bad) guff joke.

    He was taken with L’s frogeye or “froggie” (Austin Healey Sprite Mk1), and was curious if he’d be able to fit in it – we did scout many a show this summer to find someone of similar stature, as in 6’9” (206cm?) to stuff in and find out for him, but we didn’t find anyone that measured up.

    Sometimes events unfairly make one want to believe that there is another level to which we’ll move on to, even if, like me, one has a (sometimes regrettable) lack of a belief system outlining what happens next…

    For those of us left “down” here, we still have a smattering of his legacy on the unfretted forum, but apart from that, I still have no idea what to say as words fail me.

    Crikey! I’m really shite at this sort of thing!

    I’ll just pretend for now that it’s like he hasn’t signed up for facebook yet…

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