Hazel Smith, regarded as a Music Row fixture since the late 1960s, passed away on Sunday night, March 18, 2018, at her Madison, Tennessee, home. She was 83 years old, and had long been in declining health following a cancer operation in 2007.
She was the mother of bluegrass brothers Billy Boone Smith, a song-writer and performer, and Terry Smith, currently the bass player with the Grascals.
Hazel Smith was born on May 31, 1934, in Caswell County, North Carolina.
She moved to Nashville in the late 1960s; at that time, she was a single mom with her two sons to look after.
Prior to that she had met Bill Monroe — they were introduced by Carlton Haney and it was Monroe who persuaded her to make the move to Nashville — and they started a relationship, which had its difficulties. In one tearful incident Smith admonished Monroe, “Oh, walk softly, ‘cause you are walking on my heart!” The incident led to Monroe’s classic Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine, written by Monroe and his guitar player at the time, Jake Landers.
She had many strings to her bow; she played the bass, albeit very briefly. Later, during her years in Nashville, she worked as a journalist for Country Music, Country Weekly and Country Music Today magazines, and was a regular columnist for CMT.com; she was a popular syndicated radio reporter and a television host; served as a publicist for Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, Tompall Glaser, and Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson; and she wrote cookery books. On Twitter, she described herself as Country music’s “mother hen”.
Smith is credited with coining the phrase “outlaw music” to categorize and successfully promote the music of three of her charges.
In her cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ with Country Stars, she featured recipes from Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Alan Jackson, among other top country music stars.
Smith was one of the first journalists to give national attention to artists ranging from Garth Brooks to Brad Paisley to Gillian Welch.
Also, she worked as a personal assistant for Grand Ole Opry stars Ricky Skaggs and his wife, Sharon, then formed her own management company.
Smith had more than 175 songs registered with BMI, including Thank God for Kentucky (recorded by Bill Monroe); Love Ain’t the Question, Love Ain’t the Answer (Dr. Hook); Lord, It Sure Rains Hard in Tennessee; When Love Goes; He Loved You Out of My Heart; and I Put the Devil on My Angel.
Her songs were also recorded by Tammy Wynette and Brenda Lee.
In 1999 she was honored with the Country Music Association’s Media Achievement Award.
Stephen L Betts writing for Rolling Stone described Hazel Smith as a “trusted confidante to the stars and others…” and saying that she was “country music’s larger-than-life matriarch, reigning for decades with quick wit, matronly wisdom and unbridled – and often side-splittingly hilarious – opinion”.
Many of these characteristics and her knowledge of movies were evident in CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks with Hazel Smith.
R.I.P. Hazel Smith
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. However, there will be a service at Madison Funeral Home before Hazel Smith is buried in North Carolina.
UPDATE 3/20 – We have received this update from the family.
Hazel Smith’s funeral will take place at Madison Funeral Home, 219 E. Old Hickory Boulevard, Madison, Tennessee 37115, from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.
She will be laid to rest at Camp Springs United Methodist Church, 9168 Cherry Grove Road, Reidsville, North Carolina 27320, on Saturday.
More information will be provided as we become aware of further details.