Josh Smith was born October 7, 1979 in Middletown, Connecticut. Before he was 1, his family relocated to Florida, eventually settling in Pembroke Pines, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. At age 3, he received his first guitar and at 6, he started taking guitar lessons.
Josh was exposed to the blues at an early age. He listened to a variety of artists, such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King and T-Bone Walker. He also started going to concerts, including the Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
By 12, Josh was playing at established professional blues jams in South Florida, such as Musicians Exchange Café in Fort Lauderdale and Club M in Hollywood, FL.
When Josh was 13, the Rhino Cats, house band at Club M, asked him to be the lead guitarist. Musicians Exchange owner Don Cohen was so taken aback by the talent of this young musician that he offered to help manage and develop Josh’s career.
The Café was renowned for bringing in the best national touring blues bands, and Josh was quick to learn how to approach these blues greats, many of whom would invite Josh to sit in with them, thinking it may be a “novelty” to have a 14-year-old kid playing the blues. The novelty quickly wore off and was replaced by musicians stopping, watching and listening as this “kid” wailed out blues licks better than many of the touring guitarists on the circuit. Josh began sitting in with such greats as Jimmy Thackery, Tinsley Ellis, Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, Double Trouble, Joanna Connor and Kim Simmonds, among others. Jimmy Thackery said of the 14- year-old,“Josh is three heartbreaks away from being a true blues guitar genius.” At 14, Josh released his first CD,Born Under a Blue Sign, and at 15, he released his second CD, Woodsheddin.
While performing all over South Florida, Josh Smith and the Rhino Cats quickly became one of the most in-demand blues bands in the area. In 1994, while Josh was only 15, they received the Florida Jammy Award for best blues band and were selected as XS Readers Choice Winners in 1995 for best blues band. In 1996, then a senior in high school, Josh was put on the cover of the national magazine High School Senior, which hailed him as an “Up and Coming Guitar Legend.” That same year, Washburn Guitars Int’l recognized Josh’s talent and offered him an endorsement. They flew Josh to Chicago and guitar luthier Grover Jackson built him a custom guitar.