Well-known bluegrass standards, including many co-written with Don Reno:

  • “Brighter Mansion Over There”
  • “Cruel Love”
  • “Drifting With the Tide”
  • “If It Takes Me a Lifetime”
  • “I’m Gone, Long Gone”
  • “Maybe You Will Change Your Mind”
  • “Tally Ho”
  • “There’s Another Baby Waiting For Me Down the Line”

Came to Fame With

Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1951-1965

Performed With

  • Smoky and the Carolina Ramblers, Bryson City, NC, 1930s
  • Zeke Morris, Johnson City, TN, 1944
  • Sauceman Brothers (Blue Ridge Hillbillies), Asheville, NC, 1944
  • J.P. Sauceman and the Carolina Ramblers, Knoxville, TN, 1945
  • Tommy Magness and the Tennessee Buddies, Roanoke, VA, 1949-1951
  • Toby Stroud and the Blue Mountain Boys, Wheeling, WV, 1951
  • Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1951-1965
  • Red Smiley and the Bluegrass Cut-Ups, 1965-1968
  • Don Reno, Red Smiley, Bill Harrell and the Tennessee Cut-Ups, 1969-1971

Early Influences

  • Blue Sky Boys
  • Delmore Brothers
  • Wiley Morris
  • Ernest Tubb

Led the Way

  • Introduced to bluegrass a smoother, lower-pitched vocal style, influenced by mainstream country music of the time.
  • Co-led one of the earliest and most entertaining bluegrass acts in history.
  • A pioneer in bringing bluegrass to television, performing more than 3,000 weekday broadcasts over the years 1956-1968.
  • Bluegrass Hall of Fame, 1992

By the Way

  • Aspired to a solo country music career, which he pursued briefly in Ohio before teaming with Don Reno in Tommy Magness’s band, and again in 1968 after retiring from a daily television program in Roanoke, Virginia.
  • Played guitar on the first major-label bluegrass album by a female, “Rose Maddox Sings Bluegrass,” 1962.
  • Wore a dress made by Mack Magaha’s mother and a wig bought in New York City as “Pansy Hot Rod” in the Tennessee Cut-Ups comedy routine, making him the first bluegrass cross-dresser.
  • Owned a restored Model A Ford, with which he was pictured on an album cover and in the opening sequence to Reno and Smiley’s earliest television shows in Roanoke.

From the Archives

“Not content to limit themselves to replays of their recorded hits, Don Reno, Red Smiley and their band would launch into a high-energy showcase of original bluegrass, adaptations of old-time tunes, popular country songs from the top 40 charts, and lovely gospel harmony numbers. At times they would even change into outlandish costumes backstage to do silly but endearing skits as Chicken and Pansy Hot Rod, Jeff Doolytater and Mutt Highpockets.”
Jack Tottle in liner notes to “Don Reno & Red Smiley on Stage,” Copper Creek Records, 1996.
“Reno and Smiley’s ability to entertain was noted on one occasion while appearing at the Terrace Ballroom… in Newark, New Jersey. Don and Red were the opening act for Ray Price… Following their show Reno and Smiley were showered with an amazing five encores… Subsequently, both Ray Price and Jim Reeves included in their performance contracts a clause stating that they would not follow Reno and Smiley on stage.”
Eddie Stubbs in liner notes to “Don Reno & Red Smiley on the Air,” Copper Creek Records, 1996.
“With all honesty, Don [Reno] and I never had a cross word.”
Red Smiley, 1971, quoted by Colin Escott in the liner notes to “The Best of Red Smiley,” Rural Rhythm Records, 2006.