‘SNL’: G.E. Smith’s ‘Dumb Rock ‘n’ Roll Chords’ Helped Launch 1 of the Show’s Great Skits

When G.E. Smith became musical director of Saturday Night Live in 1985, he’d already appeared in a David Bowie video and played lead guitar with Hall and Oates for six years. That’s Smith you hear on “Man Eater,” “Private Eyes,” and other classic tracks.

But music fans had seen him on an even bigger stage earlier in ’85: Smith led the house band for the Live Aid concert. That included backing Mick Jagger and Tina Turner during the benefit show. In short, Smith had quite a résumé by the time he began leading the SNL band.

Still, most of the world couldn’t call out a G.E. Smith tune. That would change a few years into his SNL run. When working on his “Wayne’s World” skit, Mike Myers asked Smith for help in creating the theme song. Smith happily helped with the simple chords Myers needed.

G.E. Smith helped Mike Myers write the ‘Wayne’s World’ theme song

Mike Myers and Aerosmith perform on 'SNL' for the 'Wayne's World' skit
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Mike Myers and Aerosmith perform during a “Wayne’s World” skit in 1990. | Ray Bonar/NBCU Photo Bank

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Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2020, Smith recalled the day in the late ’80s when Myers came looking for some help. “He said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do this thing called ‘Wayne’s World,'” Smith said. “[Myers] said, ‘I’ve got these words: Wayne’s World, party time, excellent.'”

Myers needed a specific type of backing track for his rudimentary lyrics. “He said, ‘I want it dumb,'” Smith recalled. “‘You know, some dumb rock ‘n’ roll chords.’ I said, ‘I’ve got those.'” And with the song down, Myers got “Wayne’s World” going.

Smith also recalled the day Aerosmith came into the basement to jam with Wayne and Garth during a show that Tom Hanks was hosting. With Steven Tyler on the microphone, you hear Smith play guitar in the background.

That turned out to be a curious appearance for Aerosmith. When Myers and director Penelope Spheeris asked the band to be in the Wayne’s World film (1992), Aerosmith turned them down. That turned out to be a mistake, and Alice Cooper took advantage of it.

G.E. Smith toured with Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters

Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Daryl Hall, and G.E. Smith rehearse on stage for 'Live Aid.'
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and singer Tina Turner rehearse for Live Aid with Daryl Hall and G.E. Smith. | Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

During his SNL run, Smith played with the biggest names in the music business. Al Green, Eddie Van Halen, and Keith Richards were just a few of the people who passed through the show. And during that stretch, he mixed in a tour with Bob Dylan.

Smith spent nearly four of his SNL years bouncing back and forth between 30 Rockefeller Plaza and wherever Dylan’s band was playing. “I would work with Bob during the week, then come home for Saturday’s show,” Smith said on his website.

“During one particularly tough period, I played a stadium concert in Sao Paulo, flew back to New York for SNL, then flew to Rio to play several concerts with Bob, flew back that Saturday, then flew to London for a week of concerts with Bob, came back to New York, then met the band for concerts in Paris.”

After leaving SNL in ’95, Smith continued on with a variety of projects, including a 2010 tour with Pink Floyd’s Rogers Waters. When Smith says he “hasn’t slept since the ’60s,” it doesn’t sound like an exaggeration.