Nov. 13: Mrs. Johnson, a self-righteous biddy, is out slumming at the neighborhood bar and takes the opportunity to wag her finger at a back-sliding Christian who may be a drinker and a carouser but at least is no hypocrite. That’s the story of “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking.” But it’s much more satisfying to hear than to read. So give a spin to one of the many chart-topping and unforgettable hits from the pen of Bill Anderson, as sung by the supremely underrated Cal Smith.
Smith came to prominence as a member of one of the greatest country bands ever, Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours of the 1960s. Smith was the rhythm guitarist, in support of the great picking of Leon Rhodes on lead guitar and Buddy Charleton on steel. On live shows and on three great albums, Smith and drummer Jack Greene also shone on vocals. Both became stars in their own right.
Decca Records released “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” 37 years ago today; it would become the first of Smith’s three No. 1’s on the Billboard chart. It also reached 64 on the pop chart. (I think what you’re hearing is the original record, but it might be a remake from the 1980s. Smith’s early material is hard to come by.)
Learn more about Smith’s career at the great blog The 9513. And for an indication of Bill Anderson’s position as one of Music City’s true songwriting geniuses, see his profile page at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame site.