Had Carl Smith and Goldie Hill been born 30 or 40 years later, they might have been like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw or lately Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert – the dominant married couple in country music. Carl Smith (1927-2010) was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s; much bigger than either Tim or Blake at their peaks. Goldie Hill was glamorous and talented, with a powerful and pleasing voice, unquestionably one of the three or four best female voices ever in country music history. Those were the days before sleek luxury tour buses and private jets made touring less of an ordeal, making it hard to raise a family. So when they married in 1957, it spelled the end of Hill’s career.
She was born Angolda Voncile Hill in Karnes County, Texas on January 11, 1933. Her brother Tommy Hill preceded her entry into country music, gaining prominence as a musician and songwriter. Goldie made her debut in 1952, joining her brother Tommy as a member in Webb Pierce’s band. That same year, when visiting Nashville with Pierce, she auditioned and was signed to Decca – the same label as Pierce – by Paul Cohen. Her first single, “Why Talk To My Heart,” backed with “Don’t Send Me No Roses,” failed to chart, but her second single, “I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes,” rocketed to the top, occupying the number one slot for three weeks in late 1952. It was an answer to “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes,” a hugely successful record for four different artists: Slim Willets, Skeets McDonald, Ray Price and Perry Como.
Dubbed “The Golden Hill Billy,” Goldie continued to record successfully.
The country charts were only ten positions deep in 1952 and 1953; although none of her records in 1953 charted, they sold well. In 1954 she was paired with fellow Decca artist Justin Tubb, the son of the legendary Ernest Tubb, for some successful duets, including “Looking Back To See” (#4) and “Sure Fire Kisses” (#11). A duet of “Are You Mine” with fellow Decca artist Red Sovine reached #14 in 1955. In 1959, “Yankee Go Home”, also with Red Sovine, reached #17.
In 1957 Goldie married Carl Smith, who had recently divorced June Carter. Goldie toured briefly with the Phillip Morris Country Music Caravan, but left the show to tend to her growing family. This marked the end of her career as a live performer, although she did return to the recording studio for Epic Records in the late-1960s, issuing her last recordings. Her final chart appearance was in 1968 when “Lovable Fool” charted at #73.
Carl Smith and Goldie Hill remained married until her death on February 26, 2005 after a long battle with cancer. Carl had basically retired by the end of the 1970s and he and Goldie spent their later years raising quarter horses and living the life of ranchers. Goldie lived long enough to witness her husband’s enshrinement into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003 (about 20 years later than should have been the case). Had she not chosen family over career, she probably would have joined him there.
Every now and then CMT, Country Universe or someone else will count down the Greatest Women of Country Music. Goldie’s name usually is conspicuous by its absence or low ranking, but know this: none of them were better singers than Goldie Hill Smith, and few of them were as good.
Because Goldie pulled the plug on her career at such a young age, the number of albums she released was small, especially when compared to other artists of her generation. As best as I can tell, there were four studio albums issued on Decca (Goldie Hill, Lonely Heartaches, According To My Heart and Country Hit Parade) plus two reissues on Decca’s cheapie label Vocalion (Country Songs and Sings Country which were re-releases of Goldie Hill and According To My Heart respectively, but with songs deleted from each album. The Decca albums were released between 1960 and 1964 and the Vocalion reissues were from 1967-1968. By the time Decca released any of these albums, Goldie already had been off the road for several years.
Goldie returned to the recording studio in 1968 for Epic Records with two albums released: Goldie Sings Again and The Country Gentleman’s Lady. Both albums are captioned as being by Goldie Hill Smith.
Other than 45 and 78 rpm singles, that‘s it. Worse yet, none of her biggest singles are collected on the Decca albums (the titles don’t appear on the Epic albums either).
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop currently has one CD available – Don’t Send Me No More Roses, a fifteen track collection of songs released in the 1950s on Decca consisting of non-charting singles, B sides and stray tracks. Not as easy to find, but you can find it is I Let The Stars Get in My Eyes released in 2005 by an obsessive compulsive group of Brits who specialize in keeping old, obscure and forgotten roots music in print, be it American and Canadian country music, Australian bush music or country music from New Zealand. The label is British Archive of Country Music. This album contains 24 tracks – all 15 of the tracks on the CD listed above plus nine more tracks (including all of her hits). Caveat – because BACM titles are released in limited quantities, you may have to wait while they press you a disc and they are released in the format of very high quality CD-R recordings. Browse the BACM website – you’ll be amazed at what you can find there.