Remembering a Kentucky country music pioneer
|Velma Williams Smith|
Often times in country music, we only think of legendary singers and not much on the musicians, especially with females. One of those legendary performers was Velma Williams Smith. She was born in 1927 and raised at Epley Station in Logan County, Kentucky.
Bill Monroe discovered Velma and her sister, Mildred, in 1941 when they appeared on WHOP out of Hopkinsville. They were invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry and soon Velma began playing in the bands with Ernest Tubb, Carl Smith, Porter Waggoner, and Roy Acuff. She was the first female to play a solo on the portion of the Grand Ole Opry broadcast nationally on NBC radio network.
During 1950s through the 1970s, Velma Williams Smith was the only female member of the RCA Studio B “A-Team” of studio musicians. She would play the guitar licks on albums for fellow Kentuckian, Skeeter Davis (“The End of the World”), as well as Eddy Arnold (“Make the World Go Away”), Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves, Dottie West, and more. She played on Hank Locklin’s hit, “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” that landed number one on the Billboard country singles chart for 14 weeks. According to the Musicians Hall of Fame, she was the first female rhythm guitar player to play on records cut in Nashville.
The late Patsy Cline recorded one of Smith’s songs, “Shoes,” that was co-written with Hank Cochran.
In 2014, Velma was inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville alongside Barbara Mandrell, Jimmy Capps, Peter Frampton, Randy Bachman, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy, Will Lee, Mike Curb and Roy Orbison. Now that is some pretty good company to be inducted with.
Velma Williams Smith passed away in 2014 at the age of 87 in Madison, Tennessee.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website with over 20 years experience in music journalism, concert planning, photography, and promotion. Jessica is a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the 2019 Leadership Kentucky BRIGHT Class and a recipient of the Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award. Listen to her each week on WFKY on Friday mornings for the Nashville News Roundup.
One thought on “Remembering a Kentucky country music pioneer”
If I had the guitar she is playing, how much will it be worth? Of course it is not in the same condition!