ARTHUR SMITH, 1921-2014
A TRIBUTE AND A MEMORY
It makes us sad to realize…there’s a whole generation of young people out there today who’ll never know the home-spun routine, comfort, and sheer joy of waking up to Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks on WHKP at 7:05 weekday mornings…singing “the top of the morning to you”. And hearing a few words of cheer and wisdom, a song…maybe a hymn, a reminder of the week’s Sunday School lesson, and of course the commercial for Bost or Bunny Bread (based in nearby Shelby) that made you enjoy your toast for breakfast and look forward to your sandwich at lunch.
A private service will be held Monday April 7th, and a public memorial service will be held Saturday April 12th at 12noon at Calvary Church in Charlotte, for Arthur Smith. He died on Thursday April 3rd…two days after his 93rd birthday. A native of Clinton, South Carolina, he became one of the greatest guitar pickers of all time. Arthur Smith started a career on the radio where many of us did…working for the late Walter Brown on WSPA in Spartanburg in 1941. And in 1943 he moved to WBT in Charlotte where he lived out his radio and TV career.
Arthur Smith did a lot of great things…with some of the most famous people in the South and in music. He wrote “Feudin’ Banjos”…which became the theme for the movie “Deliverance”. Warner Brothers changed the name to “Dueling Banjos”, tried to steal it, and Arthur had to sue them to get credit for it. He never said how much how got in the lawsuit settlement…but would point to a photo on the wall in his office of a beautiful 40-foot yacht and smile. Perhaps the original version of “Feudin’ Banjos” by Arthur Smith and Don Reno will be remembered best.
Brothers Ralph and Sonny have been dead for years…and the “Arthur Smith Radio Show”, which woke us up every morning on WHKP at 7:05am right before Kermit and Charlie and the “Old, Old Good Morning Man Show” for over 30 years, is only a cherished memory.
George Hamilton IV, a native of Winston Salem, is a great country music star in his own right. He’s been in Hendersonville twice to help us celebrate the Apple Festival. And he said of Arthur Smith…”He was a childhood hero who lived up to his legend. He was the real deal. He connected with people. He was a man who walked his talk.”
This week, in those memorial services for Arthur Smith, there will without a doubt be a lot of tear-filled eyes. But we’re willing to bet there’ll be some foot stompin', too…at the greatest musical accomplishment of Arthur Smith’s career…maybe they’ll play “Guitar Boogie”, which Arthur Smith loved to introduce each time himself.
Even though we grew up on it, and as much a part of our life as it was, we never got to say good-bye to the old “Arthur Smith Radio Show”, we were off somewhere, doing something. But today, with these few words on a radio station he was on for 30 years, we’ll say good-bye to Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. He was the epitome of a true “southern gentleman”…and a musician and entertainer in the true vein of Doc Watson and Andy Griffith. But George Hamilton IV described him best when he said of Arthur Smith…simply…”He was a “good, decent man”.
Arthur Smith…brothers Ralph and Sonny and all the Crackerjacks…we’ll miss you for sure, knowing there will never be any others quite like you.
By Larry Freeman
NOTE: You can hear this tribute at 7:05am, 11:05am, and 3:05pm Monday April 7th on AM 1450 WHKP, on whkp.com (Listen Live), and on WHKP's podcasts also at whkp.com