World’s oldest professional musician? Viola Smith still drumming at 104


The Great Depression was a decade away when Viola Smith started playing drums with her family in the Schmidt Sisters, an orchestra her father founded. Smith took on increasingly higher-profile gigs during the 1930s. Later in the decade, as the war started siphoning away male musicians, women got more and more exposure on stages across the country, and Smith could very well be the world’s first professional female drummer.

“In these times of national emergency, many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted,” Smith wrote in a magazine at the time. “Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their place?”

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She did exactly that, and she definitely knew how to rock. Check out her solo starting at 0:45:

Smith turned 104 yesterday. According to the Future Heart, she still plays today, and she “recently performed with Forever Young: America’s Oldest Act of Professional Entertainers and is the drummer for a band in her home community.”

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