100 Greatest Men: #58. Carl Smith

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

One of the most successful country stars of the 1950’s, Carl Smith is as well known today for his famous relatives as for his legendary music.

Born and raised in the same Tennessee town as his childhood idol Roy Acuff, Smith taught himself guitar as a teenager.  He performed on local shows and in local bands as a teen, including the Cas Walker radio show that would later showcase a young Dolly Parton.  After a stint in the army, he did some backing musicianship until landing his own contract with Columbia Records in the late forties.

Thus began a remarkable string of commercial success.  Smith was one of the most dominant artists of the fifties, scoring a stunning 31 top ten hits during that decade.  His smooth vocal style made for a powerful contrast to the honky-tonk and rockabilly sounds of his records.   He scored signature hits with “Loose Talk” and “Are You Teasing Me”, among many others.   He became a television personality as well, often guest hosting the ABC hit, Jubilee USA.

He was also widely known for being one-half of a country superstar marriage with June Carter.  Though their marriage didn’t last too long, it did produce another future country star in daughter Carlene Carter.   After their divorce, Smith married another country star, Goldie Hill.  By the late fifties, he was also appearing in Western films.

As dominant sounds of the genre changed, Smith’s chart success dwindled a bit,  but he remained a presence on the country hit parade throughout the sixties and seventies.  He continued to both sing and act on a variety of network television shows, and wise investments allowed him to retire from the music business, though he still made some independent recordings that emphasized Western swing.

He spent the remainder of his life showing horses with Hill, until illness claimed her life in 2005.   Smith passed away five years later, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of classic country music.

Essential Singles:

  • Let’s Live a Little, 1951
  • Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way, 1951
  • Are You Teasing Me, 1952
  • Hey Joe, 1953
  • Loose Talk, 1954
  • You are the One, 1956

Essential Albums:

  • Carl Smith, 1956
  • Softly and Tenderly, 1956
  • Smith’s the Name, 1957
  • The Country Gentleman Sings His Favorites, 1967
  • Carl Smith Sings a Tribute to Roy Acuff, 1969

Next: #57. Kenny Chesney

Previous: #59. John Anderson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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4 Comments

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4 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #58. Carl Smith

  1. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    One of my all-time favorites. Like Gene Watson, I don’t regard him as especially influential – he was merely an excellent singer who made excellent records. There’s a lot to be said for that – as a pure vocalist, I’d rank him much higher.

    Carl could tackle anything – old stringband, bluegrass (the CARL SMITH SINGS BLUEGRASS album was a revelation), honky-tonk, Nashville Sound and he was especially masterful at singing western swing, which is where his path during the 1960s took him.

    I don’t have everything that Carl recorded (I’ve got about 75% of it) but everything I’ve got by him is at least very good, and usually much better than merely very good

  2. I’m not as familiar with Smith’s material as I would like to be, but I do own one old vinyl album of his (‘A Gentleman In Love’), and I enjoy it quite a bit. Plus I’ve been listening to a lot of Carlene Carter lately, which made me want to familiarize myself with her father’s music as well. He is an excellent singer; that much is sure.

  3. I’ve been inspired to listen to a lot more Carl Smith since this post ran. Thanks for that ;)

  4. Carl Smith is somebody that I keep meaning to become more familiar with. Ditto on the great voice.