Dynamic country hitmaker Margo Smith has died. The late-'70s chart-topper later known as "The Tennessee Yodeler" leaves behind a catalog filled with country and Christian hits.

  • Margo Smith scored two No. 1 songs in 1978: "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You" and "It Only Hurts for a Little While."
  • Her first taste of commercial success came in 1975, when "There I Said It" became a Top 10 hit.
  • She'd extend her country career into the 1980s with a pair of Top 40 duets with Rex Allen Jr.

Smith was born Betty Lou Miller in Dayton, Ohio. She was inspired to perform by a local TV show and even learned how to yodel at a young age, but decided to become a teacher instead of chasing a dream of being a country star.

AllMusic notes her unusual path to stardom began when she started to sing in her class and then during parent teacher association meetings. That led to radio performances, which led to a demo record and a recording contract.

Beginning in 1979, Smith began to embrace her feminine side in more obvious ways. "Still a Woman," a Top 10 hit from her A Woman album, was remarkably bold.

"Just shut the door turn out the light / The plane is gonna fly tonight / We're takin' off so hold on tight / I'm still a woman," she sings at the chorus.

The cover of Smith's Just Margo album (1979) featured her in only a satin robe, which was daring then, even if it the outfit resembles more of a housecoat in 2024. A willingness to talk about sex and more provocative concert theatrics lifted ticket sales as her success on country radio waned.

Photo of Margo SMITH

Then quite suddenly, she became the teacher from Ohio once again and expressed regret for this stage in her life. Music Row points out how in 1983 she started to embrace the Tennessee Yodeler persona, but a decade later she'd shifted into deeper conservative territory. With her daughter Holly, she became Margo Smith and Holly, an award-winning Christian country act.

In her later years, Smith moved to Florida, focused on yodeling and earned an income teaching others how to yodel (America's Got Talent 2006 runner-up Taylor Ware was her most famous student). She'd return to Nashville later and die on Jan. 23 at age 84.

She'd suffered a stroke just a few days earlier. Smith is survived by husband Richard Cammeron, plus one son, two daughters and extended family.

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

R.I.P.: 40 Country Singers and Songwriters Who Died Too Soon

These country singers had so much more to give. See 40 country singers who died much too soon: Keith Whitley, Mindy McCready, Troy Gentry and more.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

More From Taste of Country