You probably know Carl Smith for his singles "Hey Joe" or "Loose Talk" or any number of the string to #1 hits he had in the 1950s. Or maybe you remember him as the first husband of June Carter Cash. No matter how you know him, you know his career lost steam in the 1960s. His sound was very old country soaked in lap steel and western swing. It was a sound like much of the old WSM-AM Grand Ole Opry players, but he actually got his break at WROL-AM.
While Smith grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry, It was in Knoxville that he found his break subbing for studio musicians at WROL. In 1944 Cas Walker gave him his first radio work there. It turned into a full-time gig. In 1947, Carl and banjo player Hoke Jenkins moved to Asheville, North Carolina and appeared on WWNC-AM with the Smokey Mountaineers. He moved onto 580 WGAC-AM in Augusta, Georgia within a year. But that gig didnt' work out so well. Only months later he was busking to make ends meet.
He decided to return to Knoxville and WROL where things had worked out well in the past. He was eventually rehired, this time playing bass for Archie Campbell. He started playing on the programs Country Playhouse and The Dinner Bell. It was about then that a Knoxville dobro player named George “Speedy” Krise made an acetate demo of Smith. he sent it to sent it to Troy Martin a talent scout for Columbia records. It led to an audition for Jack Stapp at WSM.
Carl started doing guest spots at WSM in March 1950. It eventually led to his own program, and a series fo spots on the Opry. That May he signed to Columbiai records.