Carl Smith, the dapper singer who ranked among the most popular country hitmakers of the 1950s (and also the first husband of June Carter), died on Saturday at his home in Franklin, Tenn., just outside Nashville. He was 82.
He had recently suffered a stroke and had been in failing health, according to Keith Bilbrey, a close friend and former announcer on the Grand Ole Opry.
Mr. Smithís music combined crooning vocals and upbeat arrangements, updating the gutbucket honky-tonk of his predecessors Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb with elements of rockabilly and rock íní roll.
With snappy titles like "Letís Live a Little" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed", many of Mr. Smithís recordings sounded a sleek, modern note that resonated with the domestic optimism that pervaded Middle America during the Eisenhower years. Only Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow had more success on the Billboard country chart in the 1950s than Mr. Smith, who had 58 consecutive Top 40 hits on that chart from 1951 to 1965. The first 21 of these, including the No. 1 singles "Hey Joe!", "Loose Talk" and "Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way", reached the Top 10.
With his rugged good looks and finely tailored suits, Mr. Smith also cut a debonair figure ripe for the golden age of television. He appeared regularly on variety hours, and he also hosted shows of his own.