Music

Carl Smith: a '50s and '60s Hitmaker and June Carter's First Husband

Screengrab via YouTube

Carl Smith, a heartthrob and hitmaker in the '50s and '60s, may not have been among the kings of country music, but he did reach and sustain a level of success that earned him the nickname "Mister Country."

Smith was born on March 15, 1927 in Maynardville, a town near Knoxville, Tennessee and the birthplace of one of the before-mentioned country kings, Roy Acuff.

By his high school years, Smith had become a regional radio star, primarily for Knoxville radio station WROL. He returned to the airwaves after a stint in the Navy and performed as a guitarist, bassist and vocalist with the likes of the Brewster Brothers, Archie Campbell, Skeets Williamson and Molly O'Day.

By 1950, appearances on WSM's Grand Ole Opry positioned Smith for his first record deal with Columbia Records and producer Don Law. Smith's first four Top 10 hits -- "Let's Live a Little" (No. 2), "Mr. Moon" (No. 4), "If Teardrops Were Pennies" (No. 8) and "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way" (No. 1)-- came the following year. They established him as a singer of heart songs with enough widespread appeal to challenge the Billboard country chart supremacy of honky-tonk stars Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Webb Pierce and Lefty Frizzell.

From there, Smith kept scoring Top 15 hits, including chart-toppers "(When You Feel Like You're in Love) Don't Just Stand There," "Are You Teasing Me," "Hey Joe" and Loose Talk."

Some of Smith's prime years as a recording artist overlap his 1952-'56 marriage to one of Mother Maybelle's talented daughters, June Carter. Smith and Carter had one daughter together: fellow recording star Carlene Carter. A year after his divorce from Carter, Smith wed country singer Goldie Hill. Smith and Hill had three children (sons Carl Jr. and Larry Dean and daughter Lori Lynn) and remained married until Hill's 2005 passing.

Smith's face for television landed him gigs with ABC's Jubilee USA, NBC's Five Star Jubilee and the Canadian series Carl Smith's Country Music Hall. He also appeared in two films released in 1957: The Badge of Marshal Brennan and Buffalo Guns.

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Hits continued for Smith into the '60s, including 1967's "Deep Water." He recorded albums and singles through a late '70s run with Hickory and an '80s stint with Gusto.

Later in life, Smith raised cutting horses while living on a farm in the metro Nashville city of Franklin.

Smith joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003. He passed away on Jan. 16, 2010.

Carl Smith's not to be confused with Cal Smith, an Oklahoma-born star from the '70s and the singer of No. 1 hits "The Lord Knows I'm Drinking," "Country Bumpkin" and "It's Time to Pay the Fiddler."

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Carl Smith: a '50s and '60s Hitmaker and June Carter's First Husband