The passing of Carl Smith at age 82 on Jan. 16 not only was sad news for country music fans but also for patrons and participants of The Augusta Futurity.
Smith, a 2003 inductee into the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame and a Grand Ole Opry star, was on the Augusta Futurity's board of directors for several years. Up until about four years ago, he was a regular at the Futurity, along with his wife, Goldie Hill, also a major country music star and former member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Smith had 58 consecutive Top 40 hits on the country charts from 1951 to 1965. His singles and albums sold more than 15 million copies. His hits include Back Up Buddy, Hey Joe, Loose Talk, Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way and I Overlooked An Orchid While Searching For A Rose.
He was married to June Carter (before her marriage to Johnny Cash) and they had one child named after him: country music singer Carlene Carter.
Mr. Smith had a long-standing Augusta connection. He and his band The Smokey Mountaineers performed half-hour shows on WGAC-AM in downtown Augusta at 6 a.m. and noon in late 1948 and early 1949.
Radio stations in those days played few records and featured more live performances, farm reports and news, Mr. Smith said during the 1999 Augusta Futurity.
"We'd go out performing as far as the radio signals went," he added. "It was a hard way to make a living. You didn't make much money out of the radio shows or the performing, but we were all in the same boat."
Mr. Smith retired in the mid-1970s and devoted the rest of his life to breeding and riding quarter horses.
In speaking at a ceremony in 2003, Mr. Smith commented, "Call me lucky. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be a hillbilly singer and a cowboy. I was fortunate enough to do both of them."
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 39 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.