The Beat Goes On

The Beat Goes On

Anthony Ball expands from music to promotions

Special to The Free Weekly

Anthony Ball is not just your everyday drummer. Anthony, along with his wife Annita at his side, is becoming one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the ever-changing music business in Northwest Arkansas. When the rest of the musical world seems to be wondering “where is music going and how are we going to keep on keeping on?” he and his team are a step ahead of the rest.

I spent some time visiting with Anthony recently because I wanted to find out more about his many projects. We had just completed a Christmas show together in the Eureka Springs City Auditorium along with The Arkansas Mass Gospel Choir, American Idol’s Barrett Baber and Ozark folktress Shannon Wurst. The production was put together by my friend and manager, Andy Green, along with Nashville songwriter / producer Kenny Lamb. Anthony put together a fantastic band which included his close friend and band leader Reggie James on keys. They miraculously pulled everything together with little time and practice, it was a beautiful production, and a date is already set for next year.

Lately I’ve seen Anthony’s name just about everywhere from being involved with his many projects like Funk Factory and Smoothman Music Productions to doing shows for Al Bell and with Grammy winner Bobbi Rush. So naturally I was curious as to what he’s been up to. I met Anthony not long after he moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2007. He, my husband Larry and I had a meeting of the minds about music at a little place on the square called Fresco’s. If I recall, at the time he was in the process of creating a jazz atmosphere there, and it became a cool cat hangout with great food, music and atmosphere. Anthony was making waves in Fayetteville the minute he stepped into town.

I’m going to go ahead and give full credit to his mom and gospel singer Ms. Mary Ball. She is a beautiful soul with a voice from heaven who raised her children in the church. Anthony says, “Mom had us in the church every day! She and Grandma both were gospel singers, so we had all day on Sundays, prayer on Mondays, rehearsal on Tuesdays, Wednesday night Bible study, Thursday something, Friday youth night… I grew up around music every day, my whole family sings, I don’t remember a time without music.” You can certainly see the fruits from the prayers of his momma, grandma and wife. Anthony is proof that a praying momma holds a mighty weapon!

Anthony has come a long way from waiting his turn to jump in on the drum kit at church to his most recent business endeavor, Smoothman Music Productions. SMP is becoming one of the premier entertainment booking and production companies in Northwest Arkansas. They are linking the perfect combination of musical act to the ideal event. From party bands to jazz, pianists to harp players, their branding, marketing, talent, imaging and promotions are to the 9s and on top of the booking they’ve got a top of the line production that includes an array of lighting and sound which is perfect for any event.

Anthony saw a need for a private sector production company in Northwest Arkansas when he moved here in 2007. The opportunity fell in his lap when people started calling him asking for certain bands and acts for events. He was hustling putting acts together very quickly, learning as he went and started building a network of musicians from Memphis to Tulsa, Little Rock to Oklahoma City, and bringing them to provide entertainment for a growing list of clients here. Anthony says that at the time he was 19 and it was the “hardest gigging” he’d ever done. Now, he says, “it’s come around full circle. I started out doing the club scene, but I’ve been almost solely in the private sector for the last three or four years, now we are coming back to doing some more public shows. We’re working toward doing some bigger things such as festivals.”

Not only is Smoothman Music Productions benefiting our regional musicians by putting them to work and our entertainment lovers with quality music, but they are also doing their share of benefiting the community police departments. The second annual, sold-out, Have A Smoothman Christmas concert, which took place at Mermaids in Fayetteville, gave to “The Heroes Of NWA,” which is an organizations created to invest in the mental and physical wellness of our regional first responders. After discovering that more police officers leave this world due to suicide rather than in the line of duty, Anthony said, “I saw the person behind the badge.” This has inspired him to develop a heart to help toward bettering the life of those in service.

Heroes of NWA helps with co-pays for prescriptions and therapy for law enforcement and their families. Anthony says: “We want the police officers to be in the community rather than divided.” He and his team pulled together the production company’s singers and musicians to record a Christmas album, and it was a great success, raising over $5,000 in proceeds as well as drawing in a joyful house full of folks from every aspects of life, like great music so often does. Anthony says: “Music is a tool that we can use to better our community. Music and sports are probably the only two things that bring people together who would never talk. At the 2018 Christmas concert people were saying to me, ‘Man, this show is so diverse!’ It was diverse in race, social status, people in tuxedos, people in jeans, policemen hanging with business men hanging with regular community guys — it was eye opening to me about how music can really better our community.”

Anthony has another mission in his heart concerning our community and our musicians. He believes that the pay for musicians here should be what he calls a “staircase.” He expressed that the musicians in our area that have been doing it for many years still make the same as the new musicians. I agree with Anthony that it shouldn’t necessarily be that way. I personally have noticed that in the world-wide blues music community there is a seniority status. I’ve often wondered why it isn’t like that in all the world of music. Anthony explained to me that in Memphis it worked that way. He is on a mission to hire the seasoned musicians to be a part of playing higher paying events through Smoothman Music Productions, so they don’t have to compete for a bar gig that pays the same no matter how good of a musician they are.

When Anthony started Smoothman Music Productions in 2012, he was wearing all the hats, but in 2018 he was able to add two employees to help him with books and management. His wife, Annita Ball, and his sister, Sharda, now officially make Smoothman Music Productions a family business. He’s setting his sights on reaching even higher for 2019.

To find out more about Smoothman Music Productions go to To find out more about Heroes Of NWA go to

Rachel Fields is a life-long blues musician and performs as part of Brick Fields, an Americana band rooted deeply in blues, gospel, folk and roots music. Email her at

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