After serving as an Army musician during World War II, Mr. Smith worked with guitarist Les Paul and toured the country with the Andrews Sisters. “It was like working with the Beatles,” he later recalled. “They were mobbed everywhere.”
As the pianist with Dorsey’s band in the late 1940s, the hulking Mr. Smith sometimes lifted the piano off the floor with his knees while pounding out rollicking boogie-woogie tunes.
“One time, the leg fell off while the piano was rocking,” he recalled in 1986. “When I got up to take a bow, I had to hold up the side of the piano with my hand.”
Mr. Smith, who did not smoke or drink, soon tired of life on the road and settled down as a studio musician in California. He was on the staff of NBC and Warner Bros. and worked with such conductors and composers of film scores as Andre Previn, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin and Alfred Newman. He appeared on recordings with everyone from Jimmy Durante to Dizzy Gillespie and was the music director for TV shows hosted by Steve Allen and Dinah Shore.
After the death of his first wife, Betty, Mr. Smith married singer-pianist Annette Warren in 1958. She dubbed the voice of Ava Gardner in the 1951 film “Show Boat” and the voice of Lucille Ball in two movies, “Sorrowful Jones” (1949) and “Fancy Pants” (1950). She and Mr. Smith recorded an album together and were scheduled to appear this month at a Hollywood jazz club.
In addition to his wife, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Mr. Smith’s survivors include two children from his first marriage, actress Lauri Johnson and Gary Smith, both of Los Angeles; a son from his second marriage, Paul D. Smith of Riverside, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A son from his second marriage, Jeffrey Smith, died in 1988.
Mr. Smith had such a fine-tuned musical ear that he could emulate the musical style of any jazz pianist from Fats Waller to Art Tatum to George Shearing, but “I never became deadpan serious about jazz or wanted to sit and play jazz in a club all night,” he said in 1994.
“To me, piano is fun and games,” he added, noting that he often interjected humorous musical asides and jokes in his improvised solos. “I figure one good laugh is worth 1,000 good choruses. And if I get that one laugh, then maybe they’ll listen to the 1,000 choruses.”