Remembering Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith (April 10, 1898 – February 28, 1971) was an American old time fiddler and a major influence on the old time and bluegrass music genres. Smith was born and raised on a farm near Bold Springs, Tennessee. He learned to play the fiddle at an early age, his first influence being the fiddlers Grady Stringer and Walter Warden. In 1921, Smith began working as a logger and a linesman for a railroad company in Dickson, Tennessee. In his work he had to make extensive travels and that enabled him to meet other musicians along the way. He attended several fiddle contests across Tennessee winning the bulk of them. Smith made his solo debut as a fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry on December 23, 1927. He was made a member of The Opry in the 1920s. Within weeks he was accompanied by his cousin Homer Smith. In the meantime, Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith continued to work on the railroad. In the 1930s, Smith formed “The Dixieliners” together with the McGee Brothers and his daughter Lavonne who played the piano. They became a regular act on the Opry in May 1932 performing popular songs such as Walking In My Sleep, Pig In the Pen and Blackberry Blossom. His signature song was Beautiful Brown Eyes. That particular song, recorded in August 1937, led Smith to take action in court against some cover artists who had recorded the song as if it was in the public domain. He ended up winning the suit. Because of the hard work it took to maintain two full-time jobs, on the railroad and as a professional musician, Smith fell into hard drinking. In February 1938, it led to a temporary three-month suspension from the Opry. With assistance from Roy Acuff, Smith returned to the music circuit. Smith signed with Capitol Records, but to avoid confusion with the newcomer Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith’s recordings were released under the name of “The Original Arthur Smith and His Dixieliners”. After a brief stint with Billy Walker, Smith retired, and briefly worked as a carpenter in Nashville. He made his last appearance in 1969 with Sleepy Marlin and Tommy Riggs. Smith died in 1971 and was buried near McEwen, Tennessee.
About the authorI enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie