Originally a hit for Carl Smith in 1951, “Teardrops” sounds great on its own. But like all of their duets at this particular point in time, it suffers in comparison to the forward-looking material that Parton was writing and recording at the same time. They could have just as easily recorded this in 1967, and it would have sounded exactly the same.
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.