Austin Music Scene Loses Some of its Cool
Drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith passed away at home on Wednesday evening at the age of 71 after a long-time battle with illness.Born in Bellingham, Washington in 1946, Smith was raised in the Bay Area, early-on displaying his prodigious ability for timekeeping as a tap-dancer before picking-up his first pair of drum sticks.
Smith rose to prominence breaking out as the sideman for organist Lee Michaels and forming the rock band Sweathog where his signature bare handed technique inspired a number of drummers, including John Bonham. It was also with Michaels that his nickname “Frosty” was conceived, billing himself as Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost.
Smith spent the greater part of the 1970s gaining career momentum in L.A. recording with groups like Sly & the Family Stone and Parliament/Funkadelic. Smith moved to Austin in the 1980s, quickly integrating himself in the web of the city’s live music scene where he would remain a mainstay. Smith can be heard on some of the biggest rock, country, and blues records spinning out of Austin during the ‘80s and ‘90s, linking him name to artists like Alejandro Escovedo, Marcia Ball, Butch Hancock, Roky Erickson, and Junior Brown. It wasn’t long before Smith earned the reputation that as the Chronicle’s Kevin Curtain iterates, made him not a musician’s first call, but most of the time, the only call.
Smith’s personal highest-profile role was as the drummer for Soulhat, providing sage-like wisdom and experience for Billy Cassis, Kevin McKinney, and Brian Walsh. Even after suffering a stroke and heart attack on 2015 that limited his playing in the last part of his life, those who knew him best say he never stopped being a warm, open soul and the epitome of cool.