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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Warren Smith born 7 February 1932

Warren Smith (February 7, 1932 – January 30, 1980) was an American rockabilly and country music singer and guitarist.

Smith was born in Humphreys County, Mississippi to Iola and Willie Warren Smith, who divorced when he was young. He was raised by his maternal grandparents in Louise, Mississippi where they had a small farm and dry goods store.

Smith took up the guitar to while away his evenings while in the United States Air Force stationed in San Antonio, Texas. By the time of his discharge from the service, he had decided to make a career of music. He moved to West Memphis, Arkansas and auditioned, successfully, to play the Cotton Club, a local hot spot. Steel guitarist Stan Kessler, who was playing at that nightclub with the Snearly Ranch Boys, immediately spotted Smith's potential and took him to Sun Records to audition for Sam Phillips, with the Snearly Ranch Boys providing backup.

Phillips liked what he heard, and decided that "Rock & Roll Ruby", a song credited to Johnny Cash, would be Smith's first record. (Smith later claimed that "Rock & Roll Ruby" was actually written by George Jones and sold to Cash for $40.) Smith recorded it on February 5, 1956. Phillips, who was hedging his bets over whether rock and roll would maintain its popularity, released that record with a country crooner, aptly named "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", on the flip side. By May 26, "Rock & Roll Ruby" had hit No. 1 on the local pop charts. Smith's first record for Sun went on to outsell the first Sun releases by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

In 1957, Smith recorded "So Long, I'm Gone", a song written by Roy
Orbison, and it did become Smith's biggest hit at Sun, peaking at No. 74 nationally (Billboard). But Sun had no cash to promote it at the same time as Sam Phillips put every dollar Sun had behind Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On". Although Smith continued to make rockabilly records for Sun, including a cover version of Slim Harpo's "Got Love If Your Want It" (recorded in October 1957), these records did not do well commercially. Toward the end of 1958, Smith, seeing his future in country music, cut a final record for Sun, a cover version of Don Gibson's "Sweet Sweet Girl". Like other artists such as Sonny Burgess, Hayden Thompson, Billy Lee Riley and Ray Harris, chart success largely eluded him. Smith then decided to leave Sun Records.

In 1959, Smith and his wife and son moved from Mississippi to California, settling in Sherman Oaks, not far from Johnny and Vivian Cash. Cash offered Smith a spot on his show, but Smith turned it down, seeing himself as a headliner,
not a supporting player. In early 1960, Smith signed with Liberty Records, and immediately scored a hit with "I Don't Believe I'll Fall in Love Today", which went to No. 5 on Billboard's Country & Western chart. This record, and Smith's subsequent records, were produced by Joe Allison, and featured one of California's best country session musicians, Ralph Mooney, on pedal steel guitar. Smith scored again with his next record for Liberty, "Odds and Ends, Bits and Pieces", written by Harlan Howard. Liberty had Smith record several more tracks, mostly cover versions of recent country hits, to flesh out an album called The First Country Collection of Warren Smith.

Smith continued to record with some success for Liberty, and to tour with his band, from 1960–1965. On August 17, 1965, Smith had a serious car accident in LaGrange, Texas, suffering serious back injuries from which it took him nearly a year to
recover. By this time, his contract with Liberty had lapsed. Smith made several attempts to restart his career, first with a small, virtually amateur label called Skill Records, then for Mercury Records; but addictions to pills and alcohol held him back. Eventually, Smith's drug problems led to an 18-month term in an Alabama prison for robbing a pharmacy.

After his release from prison, Smith continued to struggle to restart his career. In the late 1970s, he got a bit of a boost from the rockabilly revival then occurring. He was invited, in 1977, to appear at London's Rainbow Theatre, on a bill featuring Charlie Feathers, Buddy Knox and Jack Scott. To his shock, Smith was received in London with standing ovations. His reception in England boosted his spirits and, upon his return to the U.S., he began to perform with new-found vigor. In November 1978, Smith and fellow Sun alumnus Ray Smith toured Europe, again to great success.

In 1980, while preparing for another European tour, Smith died of a heart attack at 47 years of age.

(Info edited from Wikipedia)

Gene Willams Show in 1968 Jonesboro Arkansas kait 8 studio's had Warren Smith on one Saturday night. Here is that television performance.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Rockabilly Legend – Warren Smith” go here:
01 Rock 'n' Roll Ruby
02 I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry
03 Black Jack David
04 Ubangi Stomp
05 Tell Me Who
06 Tonight Will Be The Last Night
07 The Darkest Cloud
08 So Long, I'm Gone
09 Who Took My Baby
10 Miss Froggie
11 Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache
12 Stop The World
13 Got Love If You Want It
14 I Fell In Love
15 Dear John (Studio talk + master)
16 Hank Snow Medley
17 Do I Love You
18 Uranium Rock
19 Goodbye Mr Love
20 Sweet Sweet Girl (Studio talk + master)
21 I Couldn't Take The Chance
22 I Like Your Kind Of Love
23 Uranium Rock (Alternate take)
24 Goodbye Mr Love (Alternate take)
25 Stop The World (alt)
26 Rock 'n 'Roll Ruby (Alternate take)
27 So Long I'm Gone (Alternate take)
28 Old Lonesome Feeling (Incomplete take)
29 My Hanging Day
30 Sweet Sweet Girl (Alternate take)

A big thank you to Jake @ Jukebox City blog for the link.