Russell Smith

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Credits in the country and western genre involving the name Russell Smith most often concern the guitarist, singer, and songwriter of that name who emerged into the spotlight as a member of the Amazing…
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Credits in the country and western genre involving the name Russell Smith most often concern the guitarist, singer, and songwriter of that name who emerged into the spotlight as a member of the Amazing Rhythm Aces combo and has evolved into a solo artist as well as hit songwriter and in-demand backup and guest vocalist. Nonetheless another Russell Smith took part in historic country sessions, also based out of Memphis, TN -- the same music-mad city out of which the Amazing Rhythm Aces developed. That was the drummer Russell Smith who was a member of a backup band known as both the Moonlighters and the Pacers.

Smith and associate Kern Kennedy were originally noted for performing straight-ahead country and western in taverns and dance barns all over the Arkansas town of Newport, a place that attracted plenty of customers due to its distinction of serving the only legal booze in the entire area of northeastern Arkansas. This was the sort of music that came to be known as honky tonk, based on the surroundings it was served up in. Smith's Moonlighters outfit inevitably auditioned for Sam Phillips of Sun Records across the river in Memphis. Although impressed, his advice was to come up with the rawer, tougher rockabilly sound that was becoming the obsession of this innovative producer.

Sonny Burgess, also recognized as a rockabilly pioneer, became involved in a revved-up version of the band, now the Pacers and sporting a bigger sound that came in part from the addition of extra instrumentalists including a second guitar and a small brass section. The outcome of producer Phillips putting this ensemble in the studio can be heard on a variety of collections from this period, among them the fine compilation entitled Memphis Rocks: Rockabilly in Memphis: 1954-1968 and the 2005 bonus CD/DVD Legend by Johnny Cash.