The North Carolina Visitor Center




Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith - Living Legend

Words fail when discussing the importance of North Carolina's Arthur Smith.  The man is, simply put, a legend.  His significance in American music and North Carolina culture cannot be overstated.  Not only is he, perhaps, the finest guitar player to ever touch the instrument, but he is also a master of the mandolin, fiddle and banjo.  His instrumental, "Guitar Boogie", is considered by many to be the first rock n' roll song ever recorded.  His composition, "Feudin' Banjos": - mislabeled "Dueling Banjos" when it was featured in the film "Deliverance" was largely responsible for the bluegrass revival of the 1970s.  His gospel compositions are classics.  His television show is one of the longest running music shows in any genre and was host to presidents, actors and countless musicians.  Generations of North Carolinians watched personalities as diverse as Richard Nixon, Andy Griffith, George Hamilton, Roy Clark and Johnny Cash share the stage with their own native hero.  His show, from the beginning (Carolina Calling on WBT) and even into recent years (on UNC-TV), has provided an opportunity for countless musicians and singers from our state to gain fame and recognition.  His cultural, religious and charitable contributions are well known.  He is an astute businessman. 

Arthur Smith is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest men to ever call North Carolina home and a truly great American.

The North Carolina Visitor Center thanks Clay Smith for providing the following biography.

Arthur Smith – composer/musician/entertainer/business entrepreneur. Composer of one of the all-time best selling guitar instrumentals “Guitar Boogie” and the all-time best selling banjo instrumental – “Dueling Banjos.” Active copyrights also include some of the most recorded inspirational songs, such as “Acres of Diamonds” “Because Jesus Said It” “I Saw A Man” “I’ve Been With Jesus” “The Fourth Man” “Not My Will.”

Arthur Smith, a Carolina native, knew at an early age what he wanted to do. Although an excellent student and athletic standout, Arthur passed up an appointment to Annapolis to pursue a career in music and entertainment. For him, reality has long since surpassed childhood dreams. “I knew what I wanted to do by the time I was 14 years old,” he said in a recent interview. “I wanted to marry a wonderful woman, have children, have a nice home and car, write music and entertain people… and I have done just that.” Today, Smith is 89 years old, an age when some men’s thoughts turn to serious fishing. Smith loves to fish; however, his involvement in his industry, community, church and state continues.

Arthur Smith created, produced and marketed the first Country Music oriented television show in the country to be syndicated nationally. “The Arthur Smith Show” ran for an unbroken span of 32 years. The list of guest appearances is a Who’s Who List of Entertainers, including musical artists of all categories. In addition, his early morning show, Carolina Calling, ran for a decade in the 1950s-60s. It was a perennial ratings winner. This daily hour-long variety show featured Arthur Smith and His Cracker-Jacks, Brother Ralph and Cousin Fudd (Tommy Faile), Little Wayne “Skeeter” Haas, and Arthur’s Crossroads Quartet. Top Country Music stars, Broadway stars, Hollywood figures, and recording artists of all music categories appeared on the show, as well as sports figures, politicians and international stars.

Arthur Smith career as a recording artist began in 1936 for RCA. He wrote and recorded his first hit record “Guitar Boogie” in 1945, released in 1946 on Super Disc. Arthur Smith and Texas swing artist Bob Wills were the first two Country Music artists to sign with MGM back in the 1940s. As a matter of fact, Arthur re-recorded “Guitar Boogie” for MGM in 1948, and it became the first guitar instrumental to climb the Country charts; crossover, and climb the Pop Charts. The record sold over three million copies and ever since Arthur has forever been known as Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. Arthur’s guitar style patented in “Guitar Boogie” has notably influenced significant artists of all music genres including Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton, Roy Clark, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bert Weedon, and groups like the Rebel Rousers and The Virtues.

In 1955, Arthur wrote and recorded a tune entitled “Feuding Banjos” which was a charted record. However, it was re-named and claimed as a traditional adaptation by Warner Bros. in 1973 as the theme for the motion picture Deliverance. “Dueling Banjos” was BMI’s Song of the Year in 1973. Arthur sued Warner Bros. and won a landmark copyright infringement case in Federal court in New York. Arthur says, “Royalties keep on coming.”

Arthur’s radio career really began in 1941, hosting live shows on WSPA in Spartanburg, SC. In 1943, Arthur moved to Charlotte (where he has called home ever since) as a radio personality at WBT, then owned by CBS. Given hit records in the ‘40s-‘50s-‘60s and his notoriety in radio and television, Arthur’s career as an active performer spans more than 50 years. In business, Arthur created the first recording studio in the two Carolinas – founded in 1957. In addition to his own recordings, his studio productions included national artists, Johnny Cash, James Brown, Flatt & Scruggs, Pat Boone, Ronnie Milsap, George Beverly Shea, and The Statler Brothers to mention a few. In the early years and for a period of a decade, the features for Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision were produced at Arthur’s studios. Arthur scored and produced music soundtracks for twelve major motion picture releases including Dark Sunday and Buckstone County Prison. Also, for 25 years, he produced, marketed and syndicated national radio programs (all, series) hosted by Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Richard Petty, George Beverly Shea, and Amy Vanderbilt. Arthur’s own syndicated radio show entitled Top of the Morning ran for an unbroken span of 30 years for one sponsor, Bost Bread.

While the entertainment business has always been Arthur Smith’s occupation, his avocation has always been sport fishing. Not surprising, he founded Arthur Smith Sportfishing Tournaments which ran for almost 20 years at various sites on the Carolina coast, Florida, New York, and The Great Lakes and were widely recognized as the world’s largest sportfishing events, and all tolled offered millions of dollars in prizes. For an unbroken span of 12 years, Arthur hosted his own series on ESPN (was actually one of the original programs in the ESPN Outdoors block of programming). The fishing tournaments were actually initiated due to cause related reasons – marine conservation. Arthur established a marine conservation endowment, which contributed to the construction of jetties, artificial reefs, and estuary enhancement in the site areas where the tournaments were conducted. Each tournament usually spanned 4-5 days including Registration Day, two days of competition, and an Awards/Fry Fry & Entertainment (a Who’s Who in Country Music performed).

Birthday: April 1, 1921
Home: Charlotte, NC
Married: Wife: Dorothy. Children: (3) Reggie, Connie, and Clay.
Grandchildren: 7; Great-Grandchildren: 3.
Business: Partner, Smith Companies
Chairman, Clay Music Corporation
Owner, Arthur Smith Enterprises/Crackerjack Enterprises

In addition to his numerous leadership roles in the entertainment industry, Arthur Smith has always been civic minded. He has served on countless Boards of charitable organizations, financial institutions, colleges & universities. He has chaired national & statewide committees for various organizations, and hosted numerous charitable telethons.

Awards - presented over the years - to Arthur Smith include the Broadcasters Hall of Fame presented by North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, State of North Carolina Order of The Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, American Advertising Federation Silver Medal Award, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Special Citation of Achievement (over 1 million broadcast performances of original compositions), BMI Song of the Year Award 1973, Council on International Non-theatrical Events Golden Eagle Award, International Real Life Adventure Film Festival (First Place Award - Soundtrack). Additional awards include – Doctorate of Human Letters, Steed College; Southeast Tourism Society Award 1985, American Legion emphasis Award, Girl Scouts of America Emphasis Award, Southern Baptist Layman of the Year Award 1969.

Biographical Notes:

1. Composer/Musician – over 500 active copyrights, most notably, Guitar Boogie – all time best selling Country Music guitar instrumental (first of its kind, 1945 precedent setting recording, reached top of the Country Charts and became a “crossover” reaching at the top of the Pop Charts), and Dueling Banjos, theme to the motion picture Deliverance, all-time best selling banjo instrumental. Dueling Banjos named Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Song of the Year in 1973. Other hits include: Banjo Boogie, Boomerang, Blue Guitar, Fingers On Fire, Foolish Questions, Hospitality Blues, and Mandolin Boogie. Composer of 12 major motion picture soundtracks. Recorded over 100 albums for the following labels – ABC Paramount, CBS, Dot, MGM, Monument, Polydor, and RCA. In addition, Smith has over 100 active inspirational & gospel music compositions recorded numerous times by artists including George Beverly Shea, Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrel, The Gatlin Brothers, The Statler Brothers, and Ricky Van Shelton (million seller – “I Saw A Man”).

2. Entertainer-Host/Executive Producer – The Arthur Smith Show, nationally syndicated television show (32 consecutive years); Carolina Calling, early morning variety television show (10 consecutive years); Arthur Smith Sportfishing Series (ESPN) (12 consecutive years); Top of the Morning, syndicated radio show (29 consecutive years). Creator & Executive Producer of various nationally syndicated radio shows including Hit and A Hint, The Johnny Cash Show, The Chet Atkins Show, George Beverly Shea, and Amy Vanderbilt Show. Producer of various album projects on major labels for artists including Johnny Cash, Pat Boone, Lester Flatt, Mac Wiseman, The Osborne Brothers, Grandpa Jones, George Beverly Shea.

3. Business Entrepreneur – (Active) Arthur Smith Enterprises/Crackerjack Enterprises (entertainment and special events marketing firm); Clay Music Corporation (music publishing firm), Smith Companies, LLC (partner - television production company & music production company). (Past involvement) Arthur Smith Family Inns (hotel chain), The Meat Center (grocery store chain), CMH Records (specialty record company), Arthur Smith Recording Studios, White Point (seafood restaurant).

4. Civic (Past & Present) Affiliations (Board of Directors/Volunteer & Appointments) – North Carolina Marine Science Council, North Carolina School of the Arts, North Carolina Zoological Society, University of North Carolina Medical Foundation, United Carolina Bank, Gardner Webb University, Wingate University, American Heart Association, Boys Home of North Carolina, Charlotte Symphony, United Cerebral Palsy, United Way, March of Dimes, AFM Musicians Union (Charlotte), Kiwanis. Further contributor & support roles: Mint Museum of Charlotte, Discovery Place, Spirits Square @ NC Performing Arts Center Charlotte, Charlotte’s Festival in the Park, North Carolina Public Television Foundation, UNC-TV Festival, N.C. Memorial for JFK, Save Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolinians for Good Roads Committee, Save Little River Inlet Project, Carolina School of Broadcasting.

5. Hobbies – Sport Fishing, Boating.

For any additional information, please contact Clay Smith, Phone 704-366-9336,