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  Viola Smith

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Event Date:
Thursday, November 29, 2018 (This event repeats every year)
Viola Smith

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Viola Smith

Viola Smith, born Viola Schmitz on November 29, 1912, in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, is an American drummer, best known for her work with The Coquettes, an all-girl orchestra, and for using more than 12 drums in her trap set, adding tom toms on her right and left side.

Viola Smith was one of eight girls born to a family where her father ran a dance hall. Each sister learned an instrument; Viola learned the drums. By the time Viola was 12 her family band, the Smith Sisters, was traveling the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) circuit of vaudeville and movie theaters, sharing the bill with the Andrews Sisters. After her sisters married and moved on, Viola, along with her sister Mildred, created an all-female orchestra, The Coquettes, for the Major Bowes radio show, an amateur talent show.

Woody Herman offered her a job as a featured act in his Thundering Herd, but she turned him down to stay with the Coquettes.

Viola, who played the drums until she was 63, played on the radio show, Hour of Charm, and went on to play on Broadway (New York City) for four years as the drummer with the "Kit Kat Band," part of the original production of "Cabaret."

Smith was a Ludwig endorser for many years, appearing in numerous Ludwig Drum Company catalogs.

Viola Smith celebrated her 100th birthday on November 29, 2012. She is recognized as one of the first professional female drummers in history.

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