Hazel Smith was known as publicist, songwriter, manager, journalist, radio and television host, cookbook author, tastemaker and trusted confidante to artists and others in the music business. But most of all, she made a great impact and influenced the country music industry. Smith was the person behind the term “Outlaw Music.” With this, she obliterated the confusion of the radio stations and listeners of the taste to Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson’s music.
About Hazel Smith…
Hazel Boone was born on May 31, 1934, in North Carolina’s rural Caswell County. After graduating high school, she went to work in a hosiery mill house.
She got married to Patrick Smith at 19. At the age of 22, she welcomed her first son, Billy. Another son, Terry, followed, and Smith started working at a tobacco company. Her husband played banjo and fiddle while her sons are both grew up to be musicians. Smith began learning how to make music from a young age.
In the years after her divorce, listening to country music was an escape for Smith. When Bill Monroe came through North Carolina to play a bluegrass festival, Smith was introduced to the father of bluegrass, and a romance ensued.
Their relationship was, at times, tumultuous. Monroe had a wandering eye, and during one argument, according to Monroe biographer Richard D. Smith (no relation), her words became the inspiration for Monroe’s song “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine.”
The relationship became fodder for her songs “Love Ain’t the Question; Love Ain’t the Answer” which was recorded by Dr. Hook. Another song was the “Lord, It Sure Rains Hard in Tennessee.”
But it had its moments of sweetness. Monroe taught Smith how to properly use a knife and fork in a restaurant, telling his tearful companion not to cry.
Smith’s sons Billy and Terry Smith would go on to have careers as bluegrass musicians and songwriters. On the other hand, Smith herself would write several songs recorded by the band Dr. Hook, as well as tunes cut by Bill Monroe, Tammy Wynette, and many others.
Moreover, Smith worked as a publicist for Nashville outliers Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, Tompall Glaser and Jennings and Nelson in the early Seventies.
Smith would go on to be a personal assistant for Grand Ole Opry stars Ricky Skaggs and his wife, Sharon, then form a management company, all the while writing for “Country Music” magazine. She was also a contributor to other publications, including “Country Weekly” and “Country Music Today” magazine.
Also, she was a backer for a popularly syndicated radio personality, offering unique insider insight and homespun tales of country music artists. She considered them as close and personal friends. Many of whom owe a measure of their success to Smith are Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley.
The Term “Outlaw”…
It was in 1973, at the Music Row office of Glaser Studios, christened “Hillbilly Central,” where Smith, while searching for a term to define this specialized music regularly played by only a handful of radio stations, grabbed a dictionary and landed on the word “outlaw.” Smith said in an interview back in 1997:
“It just made sense to me because Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were making marvelous music, but this was another step in another direction.”
Hazel Smith’s Death…
Hazel Smith died on Sunday (March 18) at her home in Madison, Tennessee. She was 83. She left an indelible mark on country music. Smith had long been in declining health following a cancer operation in 2007.
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