Forgotten Artists: Goldie Hill (1933- 2005)
Had Carl Smith and Goldie Hill been born 30 or 40 years later, they might have been like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw–the dominant married couple in country music. Carl Smith was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s; bigger perhaps than Tim McGraw is today. 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 commodified touring, 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” and “Sure Fire Kisses.”
More hits followed, but 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 mid-1960s, issuing her last records. 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 is usually 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.
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