Austin City Limits was disheartened to learn of the death this weekend of Raymond D. Smith, AKA Son Geezinslaw of ACL three-timers the Geezinslaw Brothers, nearly a year after the passing of his partner-in-crime Sammy Allred. He was 77.
The Geezinslaws were one of Austin’s first breakout acts, with a career going back to the fifties and stints on the Louisiana Hayride with Elvis Presley. The pair released twelve albums over the course of forty-plus years, starting in 1963 with The Kooky World of the Geezinslaw Brothers and concluding with 2005’s Eclectic Horseman. The duo scored with cuts like “Five Dollar Fine,” “I Wish I Had a Job to Shove,” “Help I’m White and I Can’t Get Down” and unique takes on classic tunes like the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” and Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Besides ACL, the band appeared on The Tonight Show, The Smothers Brothers Show and The Roger Miller Show. “As a boy. Son would walk down the streets of old south Austin to guitar lessons,” noted his obituary in the Austin-American Statesman. “As a man, he played before presidents, across the screens of America’s televisions, and with some of the greatest legends of Country and Western Music.”
Unlike Allred, whose radio career continued apace after the final Geezinslaws record, Smith stayed out of the spotlight once the band had run its course. “Son was easily characterized by his thorny exterior,” says the Statesman. “Perhaps we would call him the perpetual diamond in the rough, but after being preceded in death by his wife and daughter, those that really knew him could see that bashful self that had been singing us truths for the past sixty some odd years.”
“Son had the voice, Sammy brought the schtick,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “But seriously, Son was a great country singer, and combined with Sammy’s offbeat comedy, there’s been nobody quite like them ever since. In their own way, they were ‘keeping Austin weird’ even before there was such a thing.”
The Geezinslaws performed on ACL in 1982, 1986 and 1989. Below is a clip of the duo putting their own spin on My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live,” preceded by Allred paying tribute to his poker-faced compadre in his own unique way.