The intriguing biographical trail of a trumpeter named Carl Smith doesn't seem to start or end anywhere near where he could be mistaken for the smooth country and western singer of the same name, other than as residue in used record piles. The early jazz brassman starts out in Marshall, which in Texas is more normally a designation of lawman than a local setting but in this case is actually the name of a town. Smith's father was a schoolteacher who watched his presumably educated offspring gallivant off in the early '30s with territory bands such as George Corley's Royal Aces or Terrence Holder's Band. The usual crossroads, Kansas City, seemed a convenient place to hang one's hat, or at least droop it over a trumpet case.
In the early '30s this trumpeter also had a West Coast presence, gigging with the assumingly bashful Gene Coy. Then he was back in Kansas City, where he connected with Count Basie, playing in that famed outfit until the beginning of 1936. Then much of his more accessible recorded documentation begins in the ranks of Skeets Tolbert's Gentlemen of Swing. Smith has co-writing credits on the tune "Swing Out," perhaps written as instruction music for carpenters confused with the process of installing doors. Through the conclusion of this decade and the during the first few years of the '40s, Smith played in brass sections among the highly reputed of the swing world: Benny Carter, Leon Abbey, Hot Lips Page, Roger Kay's Jumptet in 1943, and the band of Chris Columbus the following year.
As if inspired by the latter performer's explorer namesake, Smith made a bold trek to South America after the end of the Second World War. He was musically active in Argentina and Brazil during the '50s. Smith's wife was the pianist known as both Vivian Smith and Vivian Jones, who subsequently was married Duke Ellington reed player Jimmy Hamilton.