I have been a fan of country music my entire life. As a young boy I remember one of the biggest things we did each summer was attend the Missouri State Fair and remember seeing concerts by Charley Pride, Ronnie Milsap, Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, The Statler Brothers and others. I remember seeing Billy Walker at the Moniteau County Fair and listening to country music radio stations a lot. The radio was always on around our house, in the car, in the truck, and even in the garage. I spent hours listening and singing along and trying to memorize the lyrics to my favorites.
I remember listening to 78 rpm recordings of Ernest Tubb and Johnny Cash at my grandmother’s house and remember that I always wanted to learn to play guitar, so I could be on the radio some day. I even went so far as to write a story about how Johnny Cash was going to come to my house, pick me up in his tour bus, and take me to Nashville with him, so that I too could be a big star and be on the radio. I was envious of the rhinestone suits, cowboy boots and cowboy hats worn by the stars of the era.
I watched the country music awards on television and tuned in to Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry and The Porter Wagoner Show every chance I got on Saturday afternoons.
I don’t recall ever hearing Sammi Smith on the radio during this time period, but she must have been on the radio a lot. I never really knew her music until discovering it several months ago while listening to the Roadhouse channel on Sirius Satellite radio, which I can pick-up on DishNetwork. After hearing her sing for the first time, I wondered why I was just discovering her. How had I missed her music?
One Saturday afternoon, I researched her career, her music, and read everything I could find on the Internet about her, which wasn’t much. I’ve told many people about her music and urged them to listen to her recordings. They’re so different from anything you’ll hear on the radio today, but very familiar at the same time. I received a Greatest Hits CD as a gift recently and listen to it a lot.
Gretchen Wilson and Martina McBride have both recorded tributes to her songs and Waylon Jennings had a hit with one she wrote for him. In all, Sammi Smith had 37 hits on the charts during her career and none were bigger than the Kris Kristofferson penned hit titled “Help Me Make It Through The Night”, which earned her a Grammy Award and CMA award in 1971. She also recorded “City of New Orleans”, “Today I Started Loving You Again”, “Long Black Veil”, “You Walk In” and “My Window Faces the South”, which are some of my favorites.
I sat down today to do some more searches on the Internet hoping to find out more about Sammi Smith. I was shocked to learn that she had passed away this past weekend after battling a long illness.
If you’re a country music fan like I am, you owe it to yourself to find out about Sammi Smith and listen to her recordings. I believe her music and her career are underrated. From my perspective, her contribution to the country music genre is under appreciated by us all.