Nina Jo Smith (Musician)

Award-winning songwriter, Nina Jo Smith, is the original indie grrrl (born on the 4th of July.) Nina Jo accompanies her sweet voice and wise lyrics on guitar and ukulele. She connects easily with audiences of all ages, who enjoy her memorable melodies, inventive picking, well-crafted lyrics and gentle humor. 


1)     Nina rhymes with China. I’m named after my mom’s mom, Nina and my dad’s sister, Jo. 


2)     I stole my mom's guitar when I was about nine and taught myself to play by listening to her Joan Baez records. (Don't worry, I returned it.)


3)     I still have the mud-caked dictionary with pressed flowers in it that flew out the back window of my VW bug in 1973 when I rolled it onto the tundra. On the AlCan. In the Yukon Territory 90 miles from the nearest town. 


4) My grandfather was the first artist I knew. We used to paint side-by-side in his garage-studio. He used to say, "Why don't you paint what you see, Granddaughter?" And I'd say, "I do, Papa."

5) On the last day of 1979 my brother was murdered. I couldn't listen to music for about a year and stopped playing for about twenty years. Instead, I earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a master’s degree in Physical Education and founded The SAFE Place at San Francisco State where I taught self-defense to at least a thousand people.

6) When I was a really little kid on days we could see the Channel Islands, I’d say, “The islands are up!” because I thought they sank out of sight when they weren’t visible. 

7) I rehabilitated myself from a concussion I got on Cinco de Mayo 1995 by practicing drawing, painting, storytelling, theatre and finally music.

8) Some people crochet, I play with photo apps.

9) I think Belly Laughs make the world go ‘round.

 Global Music Awards laurel wreath medallion

“I like a song that goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again.” – Nina Jo

 Nina Jo playing Taylor GS Mini guitar


Hear more of my story on KALW radio.



Nina Jo Smith with Gibson Guitar, ca. 1969

Lee Mallory (Singer-Songwriter, Guitarist - deceased)

Lee Mallory was a BMI songwriter, international recording artist, former member of The Millennium band and early touring casts of HAIR!

Lee was a beloved member of San Francisco's songwriter community. The city proclaimed Lee's 60th birthday, January 10, 2005, Lee Mallory Day. Lee succumbed to liver cancer/Hepatitis C on the vernal equinox of that year.

Words and music by William G. Mallory (aka Lee Mallory): Lee's work was first published by Acuff Rose, then Sony/ATV; final works by Redwood River Music.

Lee's archives are housed at Redwood River Music. Some photos from the archives:

Lee Mallory in San Francisco, ca. 1999Lee Mallory performing at Glendale Ice House ca. 1966That's The Way It's Gonna Be single cover art 1966 by Jason Penick

An introspective folkie with an innate desire to rock, [the late] Lee Mallory is one of the great troubadours of his era. Born to cab driver parents on January 10, 1945 (Capricorn), Lee was raised in Berkeley, California. He first picked up the guitar at the age of sixteen, and by nineteen he had begun playing local venues like The Coffee House and Confusion in the North Beach area of San Francisco. In 1965 Lee journeyed to Greenwich Village in order to sing and play alongside folk musicians like the Lovin’ Spoonful (whom he opened for at their first gig at the Cafe Bizarre). After spending time in New York, Chicago and Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Lee ventured back to California later that year. It was at Claudia Ford‘s La Habra home that Lee would first meet the man who would help guide his early career, Ford’s boyfriend Curt Boettcher. Lee and Curt’s first evening together was apparently a prolific one, as the duo penned four songs that night including the gorgeous “Forever”. When Lee explained to the young producer that he was in town looking to get something started musically, Curt suggested that Lee accompany him back to Hollywood, and the rest is music history.


Much of Lee’s early musical past has remained largely undocumented. Many fans of The Millennium are not aware that Lee was already a prolific writer by the time he met up with Curt. Some early Lee Mallory compositions include “Better Times”, which was recorded by The Association for their Boettcher-produced debut album. Though The Association would ultimately pass on “Better Times”, the song was picked up by another band named The Brothers Cain (Acta 810), who recorded what some consider to be the better of the two versions. Another one of Lee’s early songs, “Sing to Me”, was given to the popular vocal group The Clinger Sisters for an unreleased, Curt Boettcher-produced single in 1966. In between penning songs, Lee was building up his chops by jamming with the Our Productions House Band and was starting to lay down some of his own tunes in the studio. Lee’s early recordings had a style all their own; a sparkling brand of modern folk music, infused with a groovin’ rock backbeat and topped off with a dollop of majestic, Boettcher arranged vocal harmonies.

(excerpt, expanded biography available in the downloadable album sleeve for Many Are The Times.)


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