Arthur Smith

Obituary
  • "I have fond memories of Arthur, Brother Ralph, Cousin Fud,..."
    - Dennis Baldwin
  • "Arthur Smith was a valued friend and a musical hero. As..."
    - Wayne Detzler
  • "Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith was a one-of-a-kind..."
    - Jay Boyle
  • "This was such a talented southern gentleman! I love his..."
    - Kay Hunter
  • "I grew up listening and watching the Arthur Smith Show. ..."
    - Adena Bradley

Arthur Smith CHARLOTTE - Arthur Smith, who rose from his Carolina roots to touch the world with his music, passed away April 3, 2014, at his home after years of declining health. He was 93 years old, at peace at the end, surrounded by his beloved wife, Dorothy and their family. What a rich and varied life he led, his family and deep Christian faith at the heart of it all. He is most widely known for having written the classic bluegrass instrumental, "Dueling Banjos," made famous in the 1972 film "Deliverance." But that is only part of Arthur's legacy, for he was a radio and television trailblazer in the Carolinas, and a respected bluegrass, country and gospel songwriter, singer and musician. Through his talent and longevity, Arthur helped bring traditional bluegrass music into the mainstream of American life. He performed with the likes of Johnny Cash, who became a dear friend, and Hank Williams Sr. He hosted the first live TV show on WBTV starting in 1949, welcoming such guests as Elvis and Richard Nixon. James Brown, "The Godfather of Soul," recorded the classic "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" in Arthur's recording studio on Monroe Road in 1965. Way back in 1957, a young bass player in Liverpool, England, performed Arthur Smith's classic "Guitar Boogie" with his band, The Quarrymen. Paul McCartney went on to enjoy a pretty fair musical career. Arthur was born on April 1, 1921, the son of Clayton Seymour and Viola Smith. He grew up in Kershaw, S.C., where their father was a loom fixer in a cotton mill and directed the town's brass band. Arthur started writing songs when he was six years old and never stopped. He was 15 when he landed his first radio show in Florence, S.C. He moved to Charlotte when he was 22 to perform on WBT Radio's "Carolina Hayride" show. He scored his first hit, the fiery bluegrass instrumental, "Guitar Boogie," when he was 24, earning the lifelong nickname Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. He was off and running, fueled by a flair for writing catchy songs, a talent for playing guitar and other instruments, and a Southern-tinged voice that made each song his own. Arthur's greatest acclaim came in the 1950s and '60s, when his "Carolina Calling" variety show on WBTV made him a household name in the Carolinas. Ask just about anyone who grew up with a black-and-white TV in the Carolinas way back when, they'll tell you about the happiness Arthur brought to their lives. Backed by the Crackerjacks, he welcomed the famous and the talented to his show, from Andy Griffith to Loretta Lynn. When Richard Nixon came on in 1964, between political offices, he played "Home on the Range" on the piano. Later, "The Arthur Smith Show" broadcast from his Charlotte home became the first syndicated country music TV show, running for 32 years. His syndicated "Top of the Morning" radio show, with Bost Bread as a sponsor, ran for more than 30 years. There is no telling how many people took comfort in waking up to Arthur singing "This is the day the Lord hath made" on the radio. Arthur continued singing, performing, producing and writing music well into his 80s, until age took its toll. In all, he wrote more than 500 songs, among them "Guitar Boogie," "I Saw a Man" and "Feuding Banjos," which Warner Brothers renamed "Dueling Banjos" in "Deliverance." Who can forget the scene in which the mentally challenged youth named Lonnie (played by Billy Redden) trades fast-and-furious riffs with the character played by Ronny Cox. When the movie company failed to credit Arthur as the author, he sued and won a pretty penny. There was more to Arthur than his music. He was a savvy entrepreneur in the music and other businesses. He hosted one of the nation's largest fishing tournaments off the S.C. coast for 17 years, raising millions for conservation efforts. He taught a Sunday School class for years at Calvary Church, often drawing more than 100 people to praise God and study His word. Such a life earned him many honors, among them the two highest given to Carolinians: The State of North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine and State of South Carolina Order of the Silver Crescent. And what recognition he received: He won a Grammy in 1973 for writing "Dueling Banjos." He's in the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, South Carolina Entertainment and Music Hall of Fame and North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, among others. Arthur is survived by his beloved wife of 73 years, Dorothy Byars Smith, who meant everything to him; three children - Clay Smith and his wife, Charlene, Reggie Smith and his wife, Jackie, and daughter Connie Brown and her husband, Wiley; seven grandchildren - Artie Smith, Allison Foscue and her husband, Hayes, Dorie Neil and her husband, Charles, Mark Brown and his wife, Liz, Katie Sturgis and her husband, Joe, Scott Smith and his wife, Martha Delle, and Caroline Irwin and her husband, John; and 10 great-grandchildren - Hailey, Tripp, Virginia, Katherine, Mary Frances, Jane, Henry, James, Carson, and Scott Jr. What joy the children brought him. Preceding him in death were his beloved parents and four siblings - Ralph, Oscar, Ethel and Ruby. Arthur and the family were blessed near the end by the love and support of Hospice, and by caregivers Claudia, Gloria, ViVi, Alba, Nurys, Jackie, Eva, Lee, Cynthia, Sherry, Susie, and Amanda. They helped bring a measure of peace at a difficult time. A private funeral service will be held Monday, April 7. A public memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, April 12, at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road, Charlotte. Visitation will be from 10 - 11:45 a.m. that morning at Calvary. Memorial gifts may be given in his honor to Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Road, Charlotte, NC 28226. Funeral services are provided by Heritage Funeral Home in Weddington. Online condolences can be shared at www.heritagefuneral.net. Arthur liked to close his TV show with a quote. And so here, as we mourn his passing but celebrate his life, we share what he might have said: "Good-bye, good luck, good health and God bless you everyone."

Published in Charlotte Observer from Apr. 6 to Apr. 7, 2014
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