April Smith And The Great Picture Show


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“I was the surprise,” says April Smith, the bonus baby her parents won late and whose moxie and dash astounded everyone she met. Today, she remains a welcome bolt: a loose-lipped, cocked-hip gal whose music and mien could buoy the Titanic.

The girl from Toms River, New Jersey, swears she cultivated her magnetic personality in order to impress her much older and “insanely talented” siblings. Watching her brother play with his band, and her sister paint murals on her closet doors, young April wondered, “How do I sneak into their world?”

Actually, “sneak” isn’t quite the word. April crashed her older siblings’ practice sessions, living room talent shows and parties. “I’d put on a show anywhere,” she recalls. At the “big, bad” shindigs her sister threw when their parents were away, our plucky heroine hopped on the dining room table to sing selections from her Cabbage Patch Kids tape. When her siblings held extemporaneous living room talent shows, she begged entry. Absent any raid-able events, she would belt out at the DMV or the supermarket.

As she took her place in the family, April developed a muscular, mellifluous voice and high-flying showmanship. Her mom adored Queen (”If you didn’t know a Brian May solo in the first few notes, you weren’t her child”) and her dad gave her his old 8-track tape player, letting her buy Elvis and Led Zeppelin tapes at yard sales. During summer vacations with Aunt Cricket and Uncle Fred, April discovered songwriters like Tom Waits and Kinky Friedman, stealing Fred’s cassettes and absorbing observational story-songs in a backyard tent. Waits so impressed April that she felt compelled to dress up – using Fred’s hat, pipe and Junior Mints (she placed them on her teeth) each time she played his music.