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"We have worked on this for a year and we are thrilled that Connie and Marty are here tonight," said Jimmy Melton, leader of the 45 RPMs. The band launched into "Then and Only Then," with band member Joannie Johnson doing the honors. Melton then introduced songwriter Dallas Frazier, who has penned 71 songs recorded by Connie.
"I am so honored to be here to honor my good buddy and friend, Connie Smith, and see her applauded and appreciated tonight," Dallas said. "I met Connie in 1965. This is one of Connie's early songs and one of my early hits, 'Ain't Had No Lovin'.'"
Connie's daughter, Jody, sang one of her favorite songs from her mother's repertoire, "Where Is My Castle?," while Marla Cannon Goodman, daughter of producer Buddy Cannon, performed "Hearts Like Ours," a song written by Connie and Marty.
Singer-songwriter Monty Holmes (George Strait's "Troubadour") recalled the first time he saw Connie Smith. "It was on the Jerry Lewis telethon in 1973. I went out the next day and bought her record." Monty performed "If It Ain't Love," another Dallas Frazier song.
Laney Hicks was seven when her father bought a copy of "Once a Day," Connie's first No. 1 hit. "He told me not to bother listening to anyone else, because there was no better singer out there," Laney remembered.
Turning to Connie, Laney said, "I lived in a very turbulent household. When I needed to escape, I put on a Connie Smith album and sang along at the top of my voice. I realized later that Connie had a way of singing songs that made you feel that she was hurting as much as you were." Laney performed "Run Away Little Tears," one of five Top 10 singles Connie charted with between 1966 and 1968.
Connie took the stage, admitting, "This is almost more special than my Hall of Fame induction." She performed "What's a Heart Like You," also written by Dallas Frazier. "I really love this next song that Marty, Kostas and I wrote, 'I'm Not Blue,' even though I had a hand in writing it," Connie noted, to which Marty responded, "It's OK to like a song you write!"
Tanya Tucker came on stage, declaring, "How can I follow that? It is a great to be here to honor my hero. I have listened to Connie Smith since I was seven ... which wasn't all that long ago." She received a standing ovation for her performance of "I Never Once Stopped Loving You."
Bluegrass artist Rhonda Vincent closed out the tribute with Connie's hit "Once a Day." Written by Bill Anderson, the single stayed at the top of the charts for eight weeks and won two Grammys in 1964.
The 45 RPMs performed a couple more country classics before Marty came on stage, calling Connie and Dallas up with him. "I love the heart of this band and the spirit that is in this room tonight," he said. Marty then began playing the Dallas Frazier composition, "All I Have To Offer You Is Me," which was a hit for Charley Pride. Dallas sang with Marty and Connie sang backup for the pair.
Dallas stayed for one more song, the Gene Watson classic, "Fourteen Carat Mind." As he left the stage, Jimmy Melton told him, "Dallas, we want to do a tribute to you, but it would take us a month to sing a sampling of your hits."
The 45 RPMs perform classic country music at Douglas Corner every fourth Wednesday at 7:00 PM. As Jimmy reminds the audience during each performance, "It's the best five dollars you can spend."