Beasley Smith

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Instruction books and even music school courses are available concerning the art of becoming a successful songwriter, all of which miss a vital tip: use the name Beasley. The songwriter born John Beasley…
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Instruction books and even music school courses are available concerning the art of becoming a successful songwriter, all of which miss a vital tip: use the name Beasley. The songwriter born John Beasley Smith but credited as Beasley Smith is a prominent example. He should not be confused with the somewhat earlier Harry Beasley Smith, although what the two songwriters have in common are attributes that any and all budding songwriters would drool over. This includes having written tunes covered by literally hundreds of artists in a variety of genres, resulting in the sort of royalty checks that pay for cars, houses, and guitar-shaped swimming pools.

Just plain Beasley Smith did best with the sort of warm, folksy combination of lyrics and melodies that great song interpreters found it easy to bite on. Riding the "Night Train to Memphis" and basking in the glow of "That Lucky Old Sun" have been two such pastimes for performers as varied as Bing Crosby and Jerry Lee Lewis. "The Old Master Painter" is another popular Beasley Smith masterwork; artistic canvasses inspired by this song include a strange medley with "You Are My Sunshine" created by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.

A graduate of Nashville's Vanderbilt University, Smith formed his first orchestra in 1922. Between the '30s and '50s he was musical conductor for the radio station WSM, overlapping with the founding of his own publishing firm in 1953, the Randy-Smith Music Corp. He began working as both an arranger and A&R man at the Dot label in the '60s, putting him in contact with just the sort of so-called countrypolitan performers who could best interpret his songs. Smith usually toiled with co-writers, some of whom were Haven Gillespie, Francis Craig, Marvin Hughes, and the famed Nashville producer and recording engineer Owen Bradley.