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Jan. 17: The country music world lost one of the greats this weekend with the death Saturday of Carl Smith, 82, at his home south of Nashville. He was one of the hottest artists of the 1950s, a honky-tonker of the first order whose ability to also deliver a smooth ballad allowed him to rack up the hits into the ’70s. Read this Allmusic.com profile to recall his accomplishments, and let’s honor him by listening to his second Billboard chart-topping single, released 58 years ago this week. It includes fine steel work by Bob Foster, and a wonderful lead guitar part by our old friend Grady Martin, who would have turned 81 today.

For some reason, the folks at the Country Music Association took at least 20 years too long to award Smith the ultimate recognition: membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Same thing happened to Smith’s dear friend, Webb Pierce. ) But they finally righted that wrong in 2003. I was at the induction ceremony the following spring, and the highlight came when the long-retired “Mr. Country” gave a rare performance. Journalist Edward Morris tells the story for CMT.com:

    Kix Brooks followed [BR549’s Chuck Mead] to the stage to sing Smith’s biggest hit, “Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way,” from 1951. Brooks was clearly so unfamiliar with the words of the song that he had barely gotten into it before he insisted that Smith come up to sing along with him. After much urging, Smith complied and quickly demonstrated that he still has the star quality that first shone in the early ’50s. As he finished, he leaned over theatrically and kissed Brooks on the cheek.

I’ve always thought Brooks flubbed the words on purpose to coax Smith to the mic. Either way, I’m glad it happened. It allowed me to witness perhaps the final trip to the spotlight for late, great Carl Smith.

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