“Smoke From A Distant Fire” is from Ed Sanford and Johnny Townsend, writers and session musicians, who had landed a deal with a Los Angeles music publishing company.
Ed and Johnny had a mutual friend, Steven Stewart who was an aspiring classical guitarist. Steven used spend long hours practicing mostly classical pieces and Ed joked that he should stop wasting time on ‘classical crap’ and write something that would make some money.
Steven immediately started playing a cool R&B type rhythm and said “anybody can write THAT crap,” and the two took it and ran with it.
The lyrics and title had come from a old poem Ed had written while in college.
The song and their self-titled album was recorded in 1976 at the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama, with “Smoke From A Distant Fire” peaking at number 9 on the Billboard charts.
Ed Sanford also co-wrote I Keep Forgettin’ from Michael McDonald.
Check them out on their appearance on Midnight Special: