When he traveled there with wife Joni in 1958 to survey the landscape, he reacquainted himself with Smith. In the end, he opted to stay in Pittsburgh but has fond memories of his friend and shared some in an email.
"He treated me beautifully always ... even when I was thinking about going to New York City. He came to the Duquesne Guitar Camp a few years back, he had stopped playing then. Still the warm and friendly Johnny. A beautiful guitar player ... technique like I've never seen before or since. He wasn't a hard swinger or bebopper, but what a musician. There wasn't much that he couldn't do. He played Bach (with a pick) and good. Back in his New York studio days he was more an arranger .. also a hell of good trumpet player. Talk about versatile--that was his middle name."
"He was just a beautiful guy, guitarist and musician ..."
Negri never met Django Reinhardt during his sole trip to America in 1946 to perform with Duke Ellington's Orchestra, but Smith did. He even hung out with the Gypsy jazz guitar great. Here, Smith remembers one bit of that experience.