Connie Smith
by Valerie Clark

“Hooray for Warner Brothers” is right! I know from my conversation with Connie Smith she echoes this sentiment. Someone was willing to pursue Connie until she said, “Yes”, and this album was made.

It has been a lifetime to this new self-titled album. The Ohio housewife, at age 23 with a four-month old son (her first child) in tow, entered a talent contest at Frontier Ranch where she was heard by ‘Whispering’ Bill Anderson (coincidentally or not, Bill Anderson also has a new Warner Brothers album out). That began a journey. A journey that began with a whirlwind career and motherhood working side by side until she made the decision to give motherhood her full attention and put the career on hold. But now, she is back!!

Connie humbly related the story of that whirlwind start for me which, before she took early retirement, spanned fifty albums, forty-eight charted singles and membership in the Grand Ole Opry. Her story began after her initial meeting with Bill Anderson at Frontier Ranch.

“About six months later, we went to see him (Bill Anderson) in concert and he invited me to Nashville and then, that was on New Year’s Day in ’64, and then in March, the 28th in ’64, I came to Nashville and sang on the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. I talked with Bill again in May and he invited me down and I came down and recorded the demo of some songs that he had written. His manager, Hubert Long, took the tape to Chet Atkins and in June, I think the 24th of June, is when I signed my RCA contract. I recorded on the 16th of July and then it (“Once A Day”) was released the first week of August and in November it was #1 and stayed there for about two months.”

Then she laughingly added, “Ask me what I did yesterday. I can remember those things!”

The song “Once A Day” has been said to be sung by many, many artists and, looking it up online under BMI’s site, you will find that it has been recorded by Glen Campbell, George Jones, Trini Lopez, Scotty Stoneman and Kentucky Stoneman and Faron Young. But, Connie Smith definitely made Bill Anderson’s “Once A Day” her own and that song made her a permanent icon in country music history.

It was the first time a female artist’s debut single captured Billboard’s coveted #1 spot on the country singles charts. This was not broken until Trisha Yearwood accomplished it also.

Connie Smith is continually grateful for the opportunity Bill Anderson afforded her 35 years ago and is extremely humble. Dolly Parton once said, “There are only three female singers in the world; Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending.”

In response to that, Connie said, “...kinda duck my head when anybody mentions it ’cause I just can’t live up to that.”

She reveres Dolly and her accomplishments and is appreciative that someone she respects feels that way.

She recounted with glowing admiration Dolly’s many achievements that she felt made Dolly’s comment so special.

“I loved her writing especially. I always felt like her and Marty Robbins...they never waste a word. Every word in their songs...they just fit. There is no greater compliment than a heartfelt one from your peers.”

Connie has over the years also become an accomplished writer.

“I’ve always loved songwriting. The first song that I wrote was before I ever came to Nashville. It was in that movie I did with Marty Robbins called “A Road To Nashville”. I didn’t have much time to write when the kids were little. I was focused on too many other things,” she explained.

Now that her kids are grown (Connie took off those formative years and gave up her career to be with her five children; the oldest is now 35 and the youngest 23), Connie is writing again. She co-wrote nine of the ten songs on her current project.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed my friends, being with them. I’ve been writing with Jessi Colter, Melba Montgomery; Steve Wariner and I wrote a song. So many of my friends I’ve written’s been a great time for me. It’s been one of the favorite things I’ve done in years,” she continued.

She has started her own publishing company (she has owned previous publishing companies including one with legend, George Jones) and she calls it “plain ol’ ‘Connie Smith Music’.”

As for writing with husband, Marty Stuart, “He’s great to write with. Marty and I seem to be able to go in the same direction with an idea and add to it.”

Marty and Connie don’t travel or tour together. They both have active careers that, many times, take them in different directions. However, he did co-produce (with Justin Neibank) her album and co-wrote eight of the songs on the project.

The first single release from that project, “Lonesome”, did quite respectably on the Americana charts, ending up last year on the Top Ten. She realized that she might not get played on mainstream country radio but won’t give up music just because of that.

She explained her position, “I’m grateful to have a record out now after twenty years. The main reason I wanted one out is that I still don’t have everything out of me that I want out of me as far as singing and writing is concerned. I have fans who have waited twenty years for my new album and have been very patient. And, now I have one on Warner Brothers that is available.”

She has great respect for Warner for releasing her album. It took several years to get to this point. They pursued her and several sessions came about but it took this one to be ‘IT’. She is excited for the next album!

“I LOVE music,” Connie says with conviction. “One way or the other I’m going to be involved in it if I have to work at a record store,” she said with a delightful laugh.

Somehow I just don’t think that will be necessary.

Footnote: Please, when you’re done listening to Connie’s album, take a look at the back cover. It really made me smile and I asked her about it. Sandy Spika did wardrobe and, after the photo session was complete, Connie reached over and grabbed Sandy’s sunglasses. An uptempo Trisha Yearwood song was playing and Connie kicked up her legs and danced away. Originally intended as a personal photo for Sandy’s office, the next thing Connie knew it was on the album cover. Another interesting fact: the outfit that reminded me of a Marty Stuart outfit is actually a piece Connie got in California. She always loved the way Dale Evans dressed, hence the fringed look. That always-ready smile and laugh is contagious. She was a delightful person to speak with even though both of us were having ‘one of those days’ and I believe that the full moon still must have been out. The best of luck, Connie.

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