Raised in Lafayette, Tenn., a small town 60 miles northeast of Nashville, Mr. Russell worked as a disc jockey as a teenager. After graduating from high school, he moved to Knoxville, where, in the late ’60s, he formed the band Fatback with several future members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces.
In the early ’70s, the group relocated to Memphis, where they rebranded themselves the Amazing Rhythm Aces and released their acclaimed debut album, “Stacked Deck,” in 1975.
Working as a solo artist after the group split up, Mr. Smith had just one Top 40 country hit, a remake of Boyce and Hart’s 1968 Top 10 pop single “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.” He had much greater success as a songwriter for others during this period, composing chart-topping country hits for Ricky Van Shelton, T. Graham Brown and Randy Travis.
Before getting the Amazing Rhythm Aces back together in the mid-90s, Mr. Smith was the lead singer of Run C & W, a novelty band that recorded a pair of albums consisting mainly of bluegrass-style covers of soul hits from the ’60s. The name of the group, which also featured the former Eagle Bernie Leadon and the Nashville musicians Vince Melamed and Jim Photoglo, was a tongue-in-cheek mash-up of the acronym for country & western music and the name of the hip-hop trio Run DMC.
Mr. Smith is survived by his sons, Matthew and Jesse; a sister, Cathy Smith Kemp; and two grandchildren.
“Russell Smith showed me the real beauty of country music,” said Mr. Davis, the Aces’ original bassist, speaking from his home in Florida for this obituary.
“I hadn’t been around anybody like him before,” he went on. “Russell Smith was a real artist. He wrote songs that told stories, and his songs brought those stories to life.”
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