Monday, February 13, 2012

Red Smiley

Lavonia, Georgia: August 1, 1971.

I had just awakened and gone up to the front of the bus and Joe Stuart was sitting there.

Joe said "I wish you would look out there." Red had come out of the motor home that they were traveling in and had started up on the hill where the gospel show was to be held that morning. It was 3 or 4 hundred yards up to the building and Red was pretty weak at that time.

I had grown up listening to Don Reno and Red Smiley on their morning TV show on WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. Don and Red’s partnership dissolved in November of 1964. I had met Red a time or two, but not enough for him to know who I was or anything.

Red was carrying his guitar in one hand and his stage shoes in the other. He carried his D-45 Martin in a turquoise colored case. In the late 60s he and Billy Edwards had their cases "recovered" in a turquoise naugahyde material -- it stood out. He would take about 4 or 5 steps and put the guitar case down and switch hands. I told Joe, "I’m going to take Red’s guitar to the stage for him." I didn’t even have my shoes on yet, so I reached around and under the bunks and got my old work shoes and put them on.
I went on out and asked Red if he minded if I walked up to the stage with him. He said, "Sure," so I said, "Here let me take that guitar for you." We could only walk short distances, then he would need to stop to catch his breath.
We finally made it up the hill and into the back of the building. The other members of the band was already there tuning up, so I put Red’s guitar on a table and went back to the bus.
The Blue Grass Boys were the last act of the gospel show that morning, and Red was still there as we came off stage. I asked if I could take his guitar back down to the motor home. He said, "You’ve got your bass to take back." I said, "I think I can handle both of them." He just grinned and we walked back down the hill together.

We left Lavonia on Sunday night and drove to Ottawa Ohio, were we worked all week together. Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys and Don Reno, Red Smiley and Bill Harrell.
On Monday afternoon, I was in the back of the bus and I heard someone ask Kenny Baker where I was -- it was Red. Baker hollered back to me that someone wanted to see me. I went up and Red asked if I had gotten that Georgia red mud off my shoes yet, I told him no. He said, "Get them and let's go down to the dock and see what we can do with them." Red and I went down and sat on the dock and took some sticks and gouged the mud off and washed our shoes. From that point on, Red always went out of his way to speak to me.

That week at Hillbrook Recreational Center was a great time. The crowd was sparse, to say the least, during the early part of the week. That was the first time I ever had Red’s D-45 guitar in my hands. It was a killer guitar.
The last time I saw Red was that fall at Myrtle Beach. We spoke as I was getting ready to head home and he said he would see me later.....Red, I look forward to shaking your hand again....


  1. Nice story, thank you for posting! Dennis Schut

  2. Doug, what are your memories of Charlie Moore? Thanks, Dennis