Born in Helena, Arkansas in 1936, Willie Smith moved to Chicago while still in his teens. In Chicago, he saw Muddy Waters play the Blues and instantly fell in love with the music, determining to make it his life.
Picking up the Blues harp, Willie formed a trio with drummer Clifton James. The trio did well, gigging around Chicago for a few years. Willie also picked up work playing harp for Bo Diddley, Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, and Johnny Shines. In 1957, Willie switched to drums and joined the Red Devil Trio. On occasion, Smith would sit in with Muddy Waters' band and, in 1961, Willie became Muddy's full-time drummer.
In 1968, as the Blues was enjoying a resurgence thanks to rock acts like the Rolling Stones and Cream, Willie went to see Muddy Waters play. Muddy immediately asked Willie to rejoin the band, and there he stayed until 1980, appearing on all of Muddy's Grammy winning albums.
Smith and several other long time members of Muddy Waters' band, including Pinetop Perkins, set out on their own in 1980 forming The Legendary Blues Band. The Legendary Blues Band recorded 7 albums between 1980 and 1993 and were nominated for several Grammys. Since the nature of the band was to feature each member, rotating lead and solo spots, Willie became quite adept as a Blues vocalist. So, in 1995, at the age of 59, Willie Smith began his solo career.
Willie finally won a Grammy of his own in February 2011, awarded for Best Traditional Blues album. "Joined At The Hip" featured Willie and Pinetop Perkins, who passed away earlier this year. Also on the album was Willie's son Kenny Smith, who played drums on the set.
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith wrote the song "One Day Till Christmas", which he recorded with the Legendary Blues Band for the collection "Ichiban Blues At Christmas, Volume 2", released in 1992. A decade later, Willie performed the song under his own name for Electro-Fi's "Santa's Got Mojo".