Gear News

Leo Smith takes his Bassbone on a different kind of tour

One of the most common compliments received at Radial is how our gear is built like a tank. We call it Radial’s 'road ready’ quality. So we thought it was really cool when long time active duty serviceman Leo Smith approached our booth at the last Sweetwater Gearfest toting his prized Bassbone that has accompanied him on all of his assignments since 2006.

According to Smith: „When I visited the booth I was only interested in getting some info on how to send my Bassbone back for reconditioning. I never expected the guys would take it from me that day and I really appreciated the offer to hand-deliver it to the repair bench.”

This is exactly what the Radial team did. We also took the opportunity to learn more about Smith’s career and where he and his Bassbone have been. Smith explains: „I’ve been in for 17 years with 5 assignments. In all that time I have traveled to most parts of the world spreading the message of music. Of course, I also freelance a lot; wherever the military has sent me I’ve been able to meet up and play with local and regional musicians.”

Over Smith’s career he has been stationed in Hampton Virginia, Kaiserslautern Germany, Vacaville California, Anchorage Alaska and Dayton Ohio. Some of his most memorable career moments happened while with the Band of the Pacific. „The Air Force band from Alaska was deployed to the Middle East in late 2008. In the three months we were there, we traveled to places in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Iraq to play shows for American soldiers, foreign troops, and local civilians. No one performance stands out, but the overall experience was uplifting and enlightening. It was the first time in my Air Force career where I thought our music performances were actually touching people and making a difference in their lives. I really noticed this when we played for the Iraqis and Kyrgyz living in small villages.”

„I’ve moved several times during my service, and at each location I’ve tried to get involved with the local/regional music scene. My time in Anchorage, Alaska, was especially fruitful! Before moving there I had no idea there was such a healthy scene there. One fun gig in Alaska was with the famous latin-jazz bandleader Eddie Palmieri and jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch. They came to Anchorage without a band, looking for a pickup group from the local musicians. I don’t know how the organizer got my number, but I got the call! I’m glad I was available because I didn’t know anyone else in town who was qualified to do the gig. Palmieri’s brand of latin-jazz requires an attentive ear and strong rhythmic sensibility. Eddie Palmieri is an amazing musician, and also a warm and caring man who still has a positive attitude despite some of the curveballs that life has thrown to him.”

About his Bassbone: „It’s been my constant companion in all musical settings with upright and electric basses – recording sessions, big band jazz, rock/pop/country/blues bands, brazilian band, film/pops orchestra…It has saved me many times at recording sessions where the engineer doesn’t want to spend time on the bass sound. I’ll use the on-board EQ to get the sound and the engineer then applies the compressor or limiter as necessary. I love it for the control it offers during live performance. It lets me tune silently and I can switch instruments when I need to without unplugging cables or telling the soundman to mute my channel. The soundman loves it since the XLR feed is clean and noise free.”

Smith has added more Radial product to his arsenal of gear. „Very recently I added your PZ-Pre into the mix to help out the sound of my upright bass. Since the input is correctly impedance-matched to my pickup, the upright’s natural sound comes through and I hardly need use the EQ section. What is super-handy is the phase-reverse switch, which quells the odd resonances that may appear when the soundman runs the mains a little too hot. I plug the upright bass into the PZ-Pre, then connect that to channel 1 of the BassBone with the EQ on flat, and all is well. As an aside, I use a J33 at home for my turntable.”

Now back in Smith’s hands, his Bassbone has had its 'spit and polish’ treatment and is ready for deployment. „I’m currently playing with Trey Stone, a Dayton-based singer and piano player. He’s just released a new CD, 'Ahead of the Pack’, which is receiving a lot of positive support. I’m glad to have been a part of the recording. Ultimately, I would like to get to New York (doesn’t everyone!?) with the goal of playing on the Broadway show scene. At the moment, I still have a few years left with the Air Force, so I’m looking forward to one more deployment as well as the regular run of shows in Ohio.”

Leo Smith Bassbone


Published since 2005 as a printed magazine, TopGuitar is a magazine of opinion for professional and amateur musicians. Since 2020 on a digital platform. Contain reviews of various guitar-related musical gear, interviews and original articles on world’s most popular artists, music reviews, event reports, guitar workshops and tips, the latest products and artist news. The Editor-in-Chief is Dr. Dariusz Domanski, a guitarist and academic teacher, doctor of musical arts.