Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of the July 12 passing of Amazing Rhythm Aces singer Russell Smith of cancer. He was 70. The group appeared on Austin City Limits in our second season in 1977.
Born in Nashville, the Tennessean started his music career in the state’s other Music City, Memphis and co-founded the eclectic roots rockers Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1972. The band scored two hits from their 1975 debut Stacked Deck: the top 20 pop hit “Third Rate Romance” and the top 10 country hit “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song).” The Aces won a Grammy in 1976 for ‘The End is Not in Sight,” which took home the award for Best Country Vocal Performance By a Group. The band dissolved in 1980.
Smith then moved into country music, writing songs for a wide variety of artists. He penned number 1 country hits for Randy Travis (“Look Heart, No Hands”), T. Graham Brown (“Don’t Go to Strangers”), Ricky Van Shelton (“Keep It Between the Lines”) and Don Williams (“Heartbeat in the Darkness”), as well as placing cuts with Tanya Tucker, Rosanne Cash, Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys and many others. Smith even scored a hit of his own with 1989’s “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight.”
Following two albums in the 1990s with the bluegrass novelty band Run C&W (which also included the Eagles’ Bernie Leadon), Smith rejoined the reformed Aces in 1994. The band continued to record and perform up to the present day. He will be missed by the Aces’ loyal fan base.
Here he is from the Aces’ ACL episode, performing “Third Rate Romance”: