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Warren Smith

More than a few early rockabilly rebels went on to careers as country singers, but few made the jump quite as gracefully as Warren Smith. Smith earned the ultimate rockabilly seal of approval, a contract with Sun Records, and he cut a number of memorable sides for the label, but in the early 1960s, he also enjoyed a brief but memorable run on the country charts after signing with Liberty Records. Warren Smith was born in Humphreys County, Mississippi, on February 7, 1932. His parents divorced when he was very young, and he spent most of his childhood with his grandparents in Louise, Mississippi. Smith grew up with a love of music, and while serving in the United States Air Force, he taught himself to play guitar during his time off the base in San Antonio, Texas. Once he received his discharge, Smith focused his energies on a career in music, and he began playing dancehalls and honky tonks throughout the South. He landed a regular gig at the Cotton Club, a nightspot in West Memphis, Arkansas, when he was spotted by Stan Kessler, who played steel guitar with another act that frequented the Cotton Club's stage, the Snearly Ranch Boys. Kessler was impressed by Smith's voice, and arranged an audition with Sam Phillips, the proprietor of a small Tennessee label called Sun Records. Phillips agreed with Kessler's assessment of Smith's talent, and on February 5, 1956, Smith cut his first single, "Rock & Roll Ruby" b/w "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry." While the flipside was a straight-ahead country tune, the A-side was a feisty rocker, given to Smith by Johnny Cash (who claimed to have bought the tune from George Jones for a mere $40.00). "Rock & Roll Ruby" turned out to be a significant regional hit, and Smith followed it with a number of classic tunes, including "Ubangi Stomp," "Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache," "Uranium Rock," and "So Long, I'm Gone." The latter tune, penned by Roy Orbison, proved to be Smith's most successful Sun release, eventually reaching 74 on the Billboard singles charts. However, though Smith consistently cut fine records for Sun, his rich voice (and his country-leaning vocal style) didn't make him sound like a teenage idol, and Phillips seemed unsure of how to promote him. In 1959, Smith's deal with Sun ran out, and he moved to California. While Johnny Cash offered Smith a spot with his touring show, he was determined to make it on his own, and in 1960, he struck a deal with Liberty Records. Smith's first release for Liberty, an excellent honky tonk number called "I Don't Believe I'll Fall in Love Today," was an immediate success, rising to number five on Billboard's country charts, and the follow-up, "Odds and Ends (Bits and Pieces)," also reached the country Top Ten. Smith would soon cut a pair of duet singles with Shirley Collie, who would later tour and record with Willie Nelson, as well as marry him in 1963. However, while Smith enjoyed a few more modest hits, he didn't score another country smash, and as he spent more time on the road, he developed some bad habits, including an appetite for alcohol and amphetamines. In 1965, Smith was in a serious auto accident in LaGrange, Texas that left him with severe back injuries, and it was nearly a year before he was well enough to return to performing. By this time, Smith's contract with Liberty had lapsed, and given his increasingly difficult reputation, they opted not to renew his deal. Smith cut a few sides for the tiny Slick Records label, as well as one single for Mercury, but commercially, the records went nowhere, and Smith's problems with drugs and drink came to a head when he was arrested for robbing a pharmacy in Huntsville, Alabama. After serving 18 months behind bars, Smith relocated to Texas, and while he performed occasionally in his spare time, he'd hung up his dreams of resuming his career, though he did cut an album for a rockabilly specialist's label. In the spring of 1977, Smith was persuaded to perform in London, England, as part of a bill that included fellow first-generation rockabillies Charlie Feathers, Jack Scott, and Buddy Knox. The show was a great success, and Smith was surprised to learn he had a loyal fan following in the United Kingdom. Energized by the experience, he returned to England for more concerts later that same year, and increased his performance schedule in the United States. Smith was making plans for another British tour when he suffered a heart attack which claimed his life on January 30, 1980. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Call Of The Wild

1. Cave In

3. Call Of The Wild

4. Old Lonesome Feeling

5. Book Of Broken Hearts

6. Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces)

7. Why I'm Walking

8. After The Boy Gets The Girl

9. I Fall To Pieces

10. Foolin' Around

11. Take Good Care Of Her

12. Pick Me Up On Your Way Down

13. Just Call Me Lonesome

14. Heartbreak Avenue

15. I Still Miss Someone

16. Kissing My Pillow

17. I Can't Stop Loving You

18. I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today

19. Why Baby Why

20. Five Minutes Of The Latest Blues

21. Bad News Gets Around

22. A Hundred And Sixty Lbs. Of Hurt

23. Put Me Back Together Again

24. Call Of The Wild

25. She Likes Attention

26. Future X

27. That's Why I Sing In A Honky Tonk

28. Big City Ways

29. Blue Smoke

30. Judge And Jury

x

Track List: Classic Recordings 1956-1959

1. Rock 'N' Roll Ruby

2. I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry

3. Rock 'N' Roll Ruby

4. Black Jack David

5. Ubangi Stomp

6. The Darkest Cloud

7. So Long I'm Gone

8. So Long I'm Gone

9. Who Took My Baby

10. I Couldn't Take The Chance

11. So Long I'm Gone

12. Miss Froggie

13. Red Cadillac And A Black Mustache

14. Stop The World

15. I Fell In Love

16. Got Love If You Want It

17. Old Lonesome Feeling (Incomplete)

18. Tell Me Who

19. Tonight Will Be The Last Night

20. Dear John

21. Hank Snow Medley

22. Do I Love You

23. Uranium Rock

24. Goodbye Mr. Love

25. Uranium Rock

26. Sweet, Sweet Girl

27. Goodbye Mr. Love

28. Sweet, Sweet Girl

29. Dear John

30. I Like Your Kind Of Love

31. My Hanging Day

Comments

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marvins39
pretty strange remark
Report as inappropriate
jcarltone3
If it is that good , which it is, then why are the photos missing
Report as inappropriate
marvins39
underated..o n e of sun's best
Report as inappropriate
one of the rockabilly best

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