‘Country Bumpkin” Singer Cal Smith Dead at 81
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Cal Smith, a country hitmaker most well-known for the 1974 ACM and CMA award-winning hit ‘Country Bumpkin,” died on Thursday (Oct. 10) at the age of 81. While that chart-topper is his signature song, it’s only one part of a lengthy career that included multiple No. 1s and a run with Ernest Tubb.
Born Calvin Shofner in 1931, the Oklahoma-born, Oakland, California-raised star would begin performing as a teen, but wouldn’t enjoy national success until the early ’60s. In 1961 Ernest Tubb hired him to be part of the Texas Troubadours, and Smith served as the band’s rhythm guitarist until 1968, when he began his solo career.
‘Drinking Champagne’ was his first Top 40 hit, but a 1973 cover of Bill Anderson‘s ‘The Lord Knows I’m Drinking’ would be his first smash, reaching No. 1 on the country charts. Two more No. 1 hits would follow, including the Song of the Year at both major awards shows for the Don Wayne-penned ‘Country Bumpkin.”
While his last single came in 1986, he continued to have an influence. The Tennessean reports that it’s Smith who shared drinks with Loretta Lynn in Portland, Ore., inspiring the song ‘Portland, Oregon’ from her Grammy winning 2004 album ‘Van Lear Rose.’ “Well, Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz / If that ain’t love than tell me what is uh-huh, uh-huh” Lynn sings on one of the project’s more compelling cuts. Their night, she says, ended without escalating.
Smith was living in Branson, Mo. at the time of his death. OzarksFirst.com was first to report his passing. The singer leaves behind wife Darlene, a son, five grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. The cause of death and funeral details have not been released.