The North Carolina
Arthur Smith - Living Legend
Words fail when discussing the importance of North Carolina's Arthur Smith. The man is, simply put, a legend. His significance in American music and North Carolina culture cannot be overstated. Not only is he, perhaps, the finest guitar player to ever touch the instrument, but he is also a master of the mandolin, fiddle and banjo. His instrumental, "Guitar Boogie", is considered by many to be the first rock n' roll song ever recorded. His composition, "Feudin' Banjos": - mislabeled "Dueling Banjos" when it was featured in the film "Deliverance" was largely responsible for the bluegrass revival of the 1970s. His gospel compositions are classics. His television show is one of the longest running music shows in any genre and was host to presidents, actors and countless musicians. Generations of North Carolinians watched personalities as diverse as Richard Nixon, Andy Griffith, George Hamilton, Roy Clark and Johnny Cash share the stage with their own native hero. His show, from the beginning (Carolina Calling on WBT) and even into recent years (on UNC-TV), has provided an opportunity for countless musicians and singers from our state to gain fame and recognition. His cultural, religious and charitable contributions are well known. He is an astute businessman.
Arthur Smith is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest men to ever call North Carolina home and a truly great American.
The North Carolina Visitor Center thanks Clay Smith for providing the following biography.
Smith – composer/musician/entertainer/business
entrepreneur. Composer of one of the all-time best selling guitar
instrumentals “Guitar Boogie” and the all-time best selling banjo
instrumental – “Dueling Banjos.” Active copyrights also include some of
the most recorded inspirational songs, such as “Acres of Diamonds”
“Because Jesus Said It” “I Saw A Man” “I’ve Been With Jesus” “The Fourth
Man” “Not My Will.”
Arthur Smith, a Carolina native, knew at an early age what he wanted to do. Although an excellent student and athletic standout, Arthur passed up an appointment to Annapolis to pursue a career in music and entertainment. For him, reality has long since surpassed childhood dreams. “I knew what I wanted to do by the time I was 14 years old,” he said in a recent interview. “I wanted to marry a wonderful woman, have children, have a nice home and car, write music and entertain people… and I have done just that.” Today, Smith is 89 years old, an age when some men’s thoughts turn to serious fishing. Smith loves to fish; however, his involvement in his industry, community, church and state continues.
Arthur Smith created, produced and marketed the first Country Music oriented television show in the country to be syndicated nationally. “The Arthur Smith Show” ran for an unbroken span of 32 years. The list of guest appearances is a Who’s Who List of Entertainers, including musical artists of all categories. In addition, his early morning show, Carolina Calling, ran for a decade in the 1950s-60s. It was a perennial ratings winner. This daily hour-long variety show featured Arthur Smith and His Cracker-Jacks, Brother Ralph and Cousin Fudd (Tommy Faile), Little Wayne “Skeeter” Haas, and Arthur’s Crossroads Quartet. Top Country Music stars, Broadway stars, Hollywood figures, and recording artists of all music categories appeared on the show, as well as sports figures, politicians and international stars.
Arthur Smith career as a recording artist began in 1936 for RCA. He wrote and recorded his first hit record “Guitar Boogie” in 1945, released in 1946 on Super Disc. Arthur Smith and Texas swing artist Bob Wills were the first two Country Music artists to sign with MGM back in the 1940s. As a matter of fact, Arthur re-recorded “Guitar Boogie” for MGM in 1948, and it became the first guitar instrumental to climb the Country charts; crossover, and climb the Pop Charts. The record sold over three million copies and ever since Arthur has forever been known as Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. Arthur’s guitar style patented in “Guitar Boogie” has notably influenced significant artists of all music genres including Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton, Roy Clark, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bert Weedon, and groups like the Rebel Rousers and The Virtues.
In 1955, Arthur wrote and recorded a tune entitled “Feuding Banjos” which was a charted record. However, it was re-named and claimed as a traditional adaptation by Warner Bros. in 1973 as the theme for the motion picture Deliverance. “Dueling Banjos” was BMI’s Song of the Year in 1973. Arthur sued Warner Bros. and won a landmark copyright infringement case in Federal court in New York. Arthur says, “Royalties keep on coming.”
Arthur’s radio career really began in 1941, hosting live shows on WSPA in Spartanburg, SC. In 1943, Arthur moved to Charlotte (where he has called home ever since) as a radio personality at WBT, then owned by CBS. Given hit records in the ‘40s-‘50s-‘60s and his notoriety in radio and television, Arthur’s career as an active performer spans more than 50 years. In business, Arthur created the first recording studio in the two Carolinas – founded in 1957. In addition to his own recordings, his studio productions included national artists, Johnny Cash, James Brown, Flatt & Scruggs, Pat Boone, Ronnie Milsap, George Beverly Shea, and The Statler Brothers to mention a few. In the early years and for a period of a decade, the features for Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision were produced at Arthur’s studios. Arthur scored and produced music soundtracks for twelve major motion picture releases including Dark Sunday and Buckstone County Prison. Also, for 25 years, he produced, marketed and syndicated national radio programs (all, series) hosted by Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Richard Petty, George Beverly Shea, and Amy Vanderbilt. Arthur’s own syndicated radio show entitled Top of the Morning ran for an unbroken span of 30 years for one sponsor, Bost Bread.