Sunday, January 17, 2010
– Carl Smith, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, known as Mr. Country, died Saturday at 82. He was the former husband of June Carter Cash and Goldie Hill. A honky tonker, who also knew his way around a ballad, Smith was one of country's most successful male artists during the 1950s, accumulating 30 Top 10 hits. No further information about the cause of death was available.
Smith was born March 16, 1927 in Maynardsville, Tenn. As a teenager, Smith learned to play string bass and worked at radio station WROL in Knoxville, Tenn. After graduating high school and serving in the Navy, he returned to the station and played bass for country singers Molly O'Day and Skeets Williamson and began his own singing career. A fellow radio station colleague sent a copy of Smith to radio station WSM in Nashville, which soon signed him to perform on the station. In 1950, Smith inked a record deal with Columbia Records.
Smith told the Tennessean newspaper, "My first job at WSM was six or seven days a week at 5:15 in the morning. The announcer would put me on and then just leave. I started being on the Opry pretty regularly. They didn't say you were a 'member' of the Opry back then. You just were on it or you weren't." Smith later would leave the Opry in 1956.
In 1951, he hit number 2 on the chart with Let's Live a Little. The next year, he had three number ones with Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way, (When You Feel Like You're in Love)
Don't Just Stand There and Are You Teasing Me. Hey Joe was number 1 in 1953. The hits continued with Back Up Buddy, Loose Talk, You Are the One and others. His last top 10 was Ten Thousand Drums in 1959.
Smith continued recording, but the hits stopped coming. He stayed with Columbia until 1975, leaving for Hickory Records. By the late 1970s, he retired from music, although he recorded again in 1983 for Gusto Records. During his career, Smith also ventured into Western swing.
Smith entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003, an honor that some said was long overdue. "I appreciate it very much. I was afraid I was going to have to die before this happened," Smith said.
On the personal side, Smith married June Carter, the daughter of Maybelle Carter of Carter Family fame. They had a daughter, Carlene Carter, the country singer. Smith and Carter divorced in 1957. That same year, he married singer Goldie Hill, who died in 2005.