Country Music Hall of Fame member Carl Smith, one of the genre’s dominant stars in the 1950s, died Saturday at his home in Franklin, Tenn., according to The Tennessean.
Carl, 82, operated his career in a much different manner than many of his peers. While most country stars continue to record and tour as long as they’re able to find a market, he rather quietly retired from the music business once his hit-making prowess cooled in the late 1970s and lived off his investments with wife Goldie Hill, who had her own recording career in the ‘50s.
During that decade, Carl ranked No. 4 among the top-charting country stars in Billboard, according to Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Hot Country Songs 1944-2008. Only Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow outperformed Carl, who accrued 31 Top 10 hits in that period, including five No. 1 singles — “Are You Teasing Me” and “Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way,” among them.
Several of his songs were recirculated by other acts in future years. Gail Davies had a 1981 hit with a remake of “It’s A Lovely, Lovely World”; Moe Bandy & Joe Stampley retooled Carl’s hit “Hey Joe!” as a 1981 novelty duet, “Hey Joe (Hey Moe)”; Buck Owens & Rose Maddox brought new life to “Loose Talk” in 1961; and Sonny James scored with a 1974 remake of “You’re Free To Go.” “I Overlooked An Orchid,” a song Carl wrote and first recorded two months after signing his first recording contract in 1950, would also top the charts in a 1974 version by Mickey Gilley.
Despite his impact on the genre, Carl’s retreat from the spotlight likely affected his place in history. He waited decades for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, finally landing his plaque in the rotunda in 2003.
A member of the Grand Ole Opry from 1950-1956, Carl married June Carter in July 1952, eventually divorcing in December 1956. The couple had one daughter, Carlene Carter, who also had a handful of hits — including “I Fell In Love” and “Every Little Thing” — in the early 1990s. Carl married Goldie Hill, best known for the No. 1 single “I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes,” in September 1957. She pulled back from touring after that to tend to their home life. Carl and Goldie were married until her death in 2005.