Kenny Smith is originally from Nine Mile, Indiana. His father and grandfather played fiddle, and he started playing guitar at age 4. He learned to play fiddle tunes on the guitar by listening to Norman Blake’s albums.
Kenny began playing professionally with Claire Lynch and the Front Porch Stringband in 1993. In 1996, he joined Sammy Shelor, Don Rigsby, and Ronnie Bowman as a member of The Lonesome River Band, replacing Tim Austin. While a part of this group, he won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Guitarist of the Year award in 1999 and 2000.
Kenny and Amanda Smith Band
Kenny met his future wife Amanda at a Lonesome River Band concert, where she gave Kenny a tape of her music. They decided to collaborate, and then decided to marry.
Their first album Slowly But Surely in 2001 was recorded when Kenny was still with the Lonesome River Band and Amanda was working a day job. The album was popular enough to be listed on the bluegrass charts, and the Smiths decided to form the Kenny and Amanda Smith Band. They won the IBMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2003.
In 2004, they released the album House Down the Block. Ronald Inscore played mandolin, Steve Huber played banjo, and Greg Martin played bass. The Kenny and Amanda Smith Band released Live and Learn in 2008, along with Zachary McLamb (bass), Aaron Williams (mandolin), and Ron Stewart (fiddle, banjo). On their album Unbound they were assisted by Wayne Winkle (vocals), Kyle Perkins (bass), Jacob Burleson (mandolin), and Justin Jenkins (banjo). The lead single “You Know That I Would” stayed at the No. 1 spot for consecutive weeks on the Bluegrass Today Weekly Airplay charts.
Kenny’s debut solo album Studebaker was released in 1997, featuring Amanda Smith (vocals), Barry Bales (bass), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Sammy Shelor (banjo), Don Rigsby, Daniel Carwile (fiddle) and Ronnie Bowman. On his 2011 album Return, Smith employed a variety of vintage guitars: his 1935 Martin D-18, Norman Blake’s sunburst 1933 D-28, and a Gibson 1935 jumbo prototype. Musicians on the album included Bales, Steffey, Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Jim Denman (banjo), and Adam Hurt (clawhammer banjo). Glenn Tabor co-produced the album with Smith.
Band of Ruhks
Kenny is a founding member of Band Of Ruhks, along with Don Rigsby and Ronnie Bowman. During a Lonesome River Band reunion performance, all three discovered a mutual longing to once again perform together. Band of Ruhks released a self-titled album in 2015. The Ruhks added Brian Fesler on banjo and released their second album Authentic in October 2019.
Kenny has taught at guitar workshops and master classes. In 2004, AcuTab Publications released his Tunes and Techniques, a two-DVD instruction set. In 2017, he launched KennySmithGuitar.com, with instructional videos, product reviews, interviews with other musicians, and information about classic vintage guitars. Guitar lessons are priced based on length, but all other content is free to view.
Kenny lives in Lebanon, Tennessee with his wife Amanda and their daughter Annabelle.