Although she's been singing professionally since the early 1960s, when she was still in her early 20s, Connie Smith still possesses one of the most powerful, agile and recognizable voices in country music. Her exposure to audiences via recordings has been very much an on-and-off affair, but she has maintained a presence through her regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, of which she has been a member since 1971.
Constance June Meador was born Aug. 14, 1941, in
With Bob Ferguson acting as her producer, Smith cut several songs in the first RCA sessions, among them
Smith was a fixture on the country charts through the 1970s (she switched from RCA to
However, she returned briefly to the charts (at No. 71) in 1985 on Epic Records with the single "A Far Cry From You," written by the promising young songwriter Steve Earle. She attempted another comeback in 1998 with the Warner Bros. album Connie Smith, but it attracted little notice.
In 1996, RCA released The Essential Connie Smith, a 20-cut CD that contains most of her biggest hits, plus the crowd-inciting "How Great Thou Art." She married country star Marty Stuart, her fourth husband, on July 8, 1997.
(CSC) 1. After winning a local talent show in 1963, it was there that you were discovered by country star Bill Anderson. A few months later you were signed to RCA records, what was it like working on your first album?
Well Chet Atkins signed me and I met Bill Anderson in August of 1963. I came to
(CSC) 2. You recorded “Once A Day” which was written by country music legend Bill Anderson. It became your first #1 song. Did you expect to have such great success with your first single?
He had actually started writing that song three years before I even met him. “Shoot, I was surprised about all of it!” I just always wanted to be on the radio. I remember driving with my husband at the time in the car; my song came on and I remember hanging my head out the window and pulling up the antenna to hear myself sing on the radio. Back then the antennas weren’t automatic like they are now. I was just so happy to be on the radio. That was then when Chet called to tell me that it was a hit. What a blessing!
(CSC) 3. Speaking of “Once A Day”; Martina McBride recently recorded a cover of your signature tune on her 2005 “Timeless” album. What do you think of it?
I’ve heard it. Marty had contributed to the liner notes on that album. I think she did a really good job on it. She is a fine singer. One of my favorite records of hers is “Where There Used To Be A Heart.” It is one of her older recordings. At least I think that is what that song is called.
(CSC) 4. You went through a dark time in your life. What do you attribute to overcoming that difficult time?
I grew up in an alcoholic household because of my father. There were some tough times that I went through as a young child. When I got into the music business, I was very bashful. I was never career oriented. It was the pressure of leaving my kids that caused me to go through some tough times. I wanted to be a mom more than a singer. I became a Christian in 1968. Before that I didn’t know god as I do now. I realized that I didn’t have to worry about all my family anymore. I didn’t have to be god anymore. The things that I was worrying about were mostly not all of my own making. Those things weren’t my fault. I was trying to find a god at that time and I was trying to be perfect. I can’t expect to be perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life but I have no complaints.
(CSC) 5. For someone who has lost their faith in Jesus Christ or is challenged by the everyday obstacles in life, what advice would you give to them to help them come back to their savior?
Well I think when we get to looking at other people rather than ourselves it is very difficult. God doesn’t change. He’s a merciful working god. He is the author and the finisher of our faith; no matter what you believe in. Anything he starts, he can finish.
(CSC) 6. You have recorded many gospel albums in your career; “Connie Smith Sings Hank Williams Gospel” and “God Is Abundant” to name a few. Do you have a particular favorite memory to share about your gospel records?
Well you see the first gospel album I did was before I was a Christian. I didn’t know him personally at that time in my life. I would have to say “Come Along And Walk With Me” is one of my favorites. I recently recorded a trio gospel album with Sharon White and Barbara Fairchild. It was produced by Ricky Skaggs. I really enjoyed making that record even though during the making of it I was sick with the stomach flu. You can probably tell I wasn’t feeling well if you listen to it. Those songs are wonderful and I bet that it is a blessing to all of us. Another story I would like to share is about Dottie Rambo. She and I used to record back in the 60’s. She would come over to my house and we would sing and write together. I have been fortunate to record many of Dottie’s songs such as “In The Valley He Restored My Soul”, “Don't Let Me Walk Too Far From Calvary”, and “I Wonder If The Angels Could Use Another Singer”. Dottie Rambo is one of the greatest songwriters we have.
(CSC) 7. Did you ever feel challenged as an artist during the time that country music switched from “countrypolitan” to the more progressive “country pop”?
Actually no, I was never there. (Laughs) I am just kidding. Actually I’ve never changed. I quit already way before that took place. I made enough to make my living in my career. I've always loved to sing even though they wouldn’t play my music much. They still don’t play me much. But I still travel around with my band doing dates around the country.
(CSC) 8. You and the other ladies used to use the restroom as a dressing room when the Grand Ole Opry used to be at the Ryman Auditorium, what special memories do you have of being backstage?
Well it was shaped odd. We would all dress in the corner behind the stall. (Laughing) I became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1965. There was a time back then when you had to appear on the Opry at least every 26 weeks, but since I was booked so heavy on the road, there were times that I wasn't there to perform. They kicked me out of the Opry for some time. My feelings were hurt when that happened, but then they let me come back. I have always loved the Opry and it is so special to me. The ladies and I always had so much fun back there. Being back there with all my friends was very special to me.
(CSC) 9. You were inducted as a member of the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 1965; what does it mean to you to be a member and can you recall the first time you played it?
Absolutely! I sang with Bill Philips on “I Can Stand It As Long As She Can” my first time on the Opry stage. You know how they say that phrase about how when you get so nervous that your knees were knocking together; well I never thought that could possibly be true. But I was wrong, I remember my knees were knocking so bad and once I got off the stage I burst into tears and just cried. I remember one time when I was backstage at the Opry as a guest. I wasn’t performing that night. While I was backstage I ran into Loretta Lynn and she asked me, “What time are you on tonight?” I told her that I wasn’t performing and she said, “What do you mean you aren’t performing, you’ve got one of the biggest hits out there right now!” She told me that I needed to perform on stage that evening. She then went on to tell me that Patsy Cline did it for her when she was starting out and that she was going to do it for me. She had me sing harmony for her on “Happy Birthday.” Loretta is very special to me. She is my favorite girl singer. I remember being at the Ernest Tubb record shop with Loretta years back. I also recall being at Hurricane Mills with my husband Marty, that is where Loretta lives and performs often. During Loretta’s show she called Marty up on stage to sing with her. Then she called me up on stage because she forgot the lyrics to the song that she was singing. (Laughs)
(CSC) 10. Do you have any special memories with Dolly Parton?
I’ve always loved Dolly. We’ve been too busy with our careers to actually hang out, but it’s always special to see her. I admire her for her intelligence, business sense, and creativity. Dolly is a lot like Marty, they both have so much charisma and appeal. On top of Dolly’s looks and talent, she’s got it all!! I remember Marshall Barnes, one of the bass players at the Opry; would always tell us ladies backstage “You’ve Got It All”. (Laughs) That is what I have to say about Dolly. “She’s Got It All!” I recently performed at the Opry this past May when Dolly and Marty were there to honor Porter for his 50th Opry anniversary. I wasn’t on the portion they were on but I did perform that night, ever since GAC took over the Opry I haven’t been on the televised portion.
(CSC) 11. When your husband Marty Stuart was just 12 years old, after meeting you at your concert he told his mother that one day he was going to marry you; does it seem surreal that you have been happily married for ten years?
Well he never told me that for twenty five years. (Laughs) I know I was twenty nine at the time and he was just twelve. It was years later that he actually told me that story. He is seventeen years my junior. We have been married for ten years now and I think we will try for another ten. (Laughs)
(CSC) 12. You are one of many to have recorded several of your songs in the famous RCA Studio B, and have written with some of
Well it’s famous for a reason. It had all those hits for a reason. You can sense the presence of all those people that recorded there when you’re in it. So many artists had their hits there. Just like the Ryman. So many great entertainers have been on that stage. I have had the pleasure of being at the Opry with Dottie West, Minnie Pearl, and Marty Robbins and all the other legends when they were still with us. I was very dear friends with Dottie West. She was such a wonderful woman and momma. We spent many holiday’s together with our families. I remember one holiday where she made fried corn and she took the time to make it just perfect. From cooking the corn to taking it off the cob and making it for the family. She was a great cook. I miss her dearly. It is a shame we lost her. Getting back to RCA Studio B, I was just there recently to record an interview with GAC. I went into the studio and saw the same microphone that Elvis Presley once sang into. I could just feel the presence of those people in that place and through the fibers of the wall. It is filled with many great and special memories.
(CSC) 13. What is next for Connie Smith? What can fans expect next from you?
Well I’ve got some dates left for this year. I am playing in Branson at the Welk Resort with Mel Tillis November 1st through December 8th. I am looking forward to this because I have never really had the opportunity to really work with Mel. He is great and I really enjoy him and his music. We are going to do separate performances on that show and then come out and do some duets together. It is going to be great! I just recently hosted the Midnite Jamboree a few weeks ago which was a lot of fun and I was all over
(CSC) 14. Out of all your accomplishments in your career, what are you most proud of and why?
Well my family is my biggest accomplishment. I am most proud of them. They are what matter most to me in life. I love to sing and perform but I am happy and content with my life. I hope to have a record out sometime next year. Marty and I are currently writing together. There is always something for me to look forward to. I co-hosted the pageant of peace last year and I thought at first I couldn’t do it. I thought of how Jeannie is so good at hosting the Opry, which is her thing and that’s what she does best. I just thought I couldn’t do it. I thought about all the different opportunities I turned down because I was scared. I’ve never been used to being away from home and my family for more than six weeks. I want to keep growing. I’m not ready to sit at the house and do nothin’. Unless Marty is there with me and he is always busy doing something. Marty has more courage than anyone I’ve ever known. He’s an inspiration to many people. It gets me inspired. I have a lot of songs I still want to write. It’s something I was proud of!
Connie's official website may be visited here; http://www.conniesmithmusic.net