Smith started in 1929 as a professional musician at the Carolina Stompers. He then played with Fate Marable, Dewey Jackson and Eddie Johnson. Afterwards he was for some years a member of the Lucky Millinder 's Orchestra (1936-1938) and the Blue Rhythm Band. He worked as a freelance musician and arranger. In 1939, he played inCafe Society and accompanied there under more Billie Holiday. In the same year he participated in four sessions of Holiday, including the legendary 'Strange Fruit' session where was recorded (20 april 1939). From 1940 to 1942, he played in Count Basie's Orchestra, where he was allowed to go it alone. He then returned to Millinder (1942-1944). In this period he recorded with Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Shavers, Rex Stewart and Leonard Feather. He also made records under his own name ("Mornin' Blues", 1940).
After leaving Millinder he led his own groups and played more and more in a rhythm & blues-style. In the 1950s he took United and he scored on plates for hits including ' Because of You ', that in 1951 the first place of the r & b chart in America and the twentieth place in the poplijst. For United he took ninety songs, which have been or will be byDelmark reissued on cd. In the early 1960s stopped Smith with it to settle in St. Louis. He Later make with real estate deals.
- Music Styled by Tab Smith, United, 1951
- Jump Time (recordings 1951-1952), Delmark
- Because of You (recordings 1951-1955), Delmark
- Ace High (recordings 1952-1953), Delmark
- Top 'n' Bottom (recordings 1953-1954), Delmark
- Red, Hot and Cool Blues, United