The career of ‘Smokey’ Hormel

Published 3:26 pm Sunday, July 7, 2013

By Holly Johnson
Hormel Historic Home

I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July.  We had another great concert in the garden on July 1 so thanks to all for attending and to the Community Jazz Band for performing.

I have done a little more research into the musical lives of the Hormel family members and wanted to tell you more about Smokey Hormel.  I apologize for jumping around a little in the family genealogy, but I find Smokey’s talents worthy of sharing amidst our Summer concert lineup.  Born the third of four children to Thomas Hormel, Smokey (named Gregory) spent his childhood carrying a guitar around.  He was raised in Los Angeles, Calif., in the 1960s and 1970s and was heavily influenced by his Uncle Geordie who operated The Village Recorder.  He began studying jazz guitar with the great Bob Wills guitarist Jimmy Wyble. He spent some time in NYC studying acting with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and then returned to Los Angeles and joined local Western Swing band the Radio Ranch Straight Shooters in 1986.

Smokey’s bio on his website,, describes him this way, “Guitarist Smokey Hormel’s long career of touring and recording includes work with Tom Waits, Beck, Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Neil Diamond, Norah Jones and Adele. He explores American Roots music, Western Swing, Bossa Nova, and African music for both his work as a sideman as well as his own musical endeavors: Smokey’s Secret Family, an African-guitar group, and Smokey’s Round-up, a western swing band.” Both of these groups play New York shows regularly.

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Smokey has also used his talent to compose music for film and TV and was a regular player and occasional composer on the children’s cartoon TV series The Backyardigans.

Austinites Mark and Gretchen Ramlo recently attended a Smokey Hormel event at Drom, a NYC music club.  They had the chance to talk with Smokey, and in addition to loving his music, found him to be a great person to visit with.  The Hormel family passion for music is going strong three generations after George and his immediate family made their own music many years ago.


What’s Happening
at the HHH

Thursday, July 11 6:30 p.m.

Snapdragon Seeds — Austin families will be entertained on this night by Steve Sanders from Snapdragon Seeds.  This is an upbeat children’s educational music project that teaches rhymes, patterns, synonyms and the intellectual power of asking questions.


Thursday, July 15-19

Circle of Friends Autism Camp

Tours hours may be limited. Please call to check the schedule. 507-433-4243


Thursday, July 25 1:30-3:45 p.m.

Rhythm Roots Workshop for grades 1-8  $10. Register by calling the Community Learning Center at 507-460-1700