Hazel Smith rests high on that mountain after spending around 50 years as a Music Row power broker.
The 83-year-old passed on March 18, 2018. She spent decades as a Nashville-area publicist, songwriter, journalist, cookbook author and cooking show host. In each role, she represented the music and city she loved.
Smith’s best-known contribution to county came when she worked in the 1970s as the publicist for Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Kinky Friedman. That’s when she coined the era-defining term “outlaw music” to describe her clients’ music to confused yet interested radio stations.
“One day, I was just sitting in the office, and there was an old blue Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary just laying there,” Smith said to the Nashville Scene in 1997. “Now, it doesn’t say this in mine or any other dictionary I’ve seen, but it said that outlaw meant virtually living on the outside of the written law. It just made sense to me, because Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were doing marvelous music, but this was another step in another direction.”
Smith went on to be a songwriter for Dr. Hook and Tammy Wynette, one-half of management firm Hazel & Heller and a personal assistant to Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White. As a journalist for Country Music magazine, she wrote one of the first mainstream articles about Garth Brooks.
In more recent years, White shared her grandmotherly charm and cooking talent. This started with 2001 cookbook Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars.
The CMT cooking series Southern Fried Flicks followed in 2007. The latter offered a new way for Smith to share some juicy country music gossip and home-spun humor.
As of Monday morning, it has mostly been Smith’s fellow writers taking to social media to share their condolences. That makes sense, considering her role in paving creative means to get involved with the music business.
RIP Hazel Smith https://t.co/CBHesSY7gy
— stepped up (@annkpowers) March 19, 2018
There’s no word yet on funeral arrangements or the cause of death.