Connie Smith Returns Refreshed After Taking 20 Years To Be A Mom

This appeared in USA Today - December 2, 1998

During the past year, Connie Smith's daughter graduated from college. She has combined households with her new husband, singer Marty Stuart. And she released her first album of new music in 20 years.

The 57-year-old Smith, who still plays a few dozen concerts each year, first climbed the charts in 1964 with the country weeper Once A Day. She had 20 top 10 country hits over the next 15 years, including Just One Time and Nobody But A Fool (Would Love You).

The West Virginian's pure voice prompted Dolly Parton to say, "There are really only three female singers in the world: Streisand, Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are just pretending." But Smith, always a reluctant star, retired from recording in 1978 to raise her five children. When the last one entered college, she got back into the studio. The resulting album, Connie Smith, came out in October.

Smith "didn't think I'd ever go back to country music as a career. When you've got three babies around your ankles, you don't realize it's temporary. It feels like forever."

Smith "might be the best traditional country singer we have right now," says Stuart, 40, who co-produced her album and wrote several of its songs with Smith. "She didn't go burn herself out like the rest of them."

Smith was 29 and he was 12 when he got his mom to take him to a Smith concert. On the way home, he told his mother he would marry Smith. "It took him a while to get around to it," Smith says. "I let him get a little older."

Though Smith says Stuart proposed by saying, "Go find that rock that your birth certificate's carved on and let's get this over with," the 17-year difference in the couple's ages hasn't been much of an issue.

"As far as I'm concerned, Marty's an old soul," Smith says. "As far as he's concerned, he swears he's older than I am. To us, it doesn't matter. To my kids, it doesn't matter. And to his family, it doesn't matter. As far as other people, mostly if they get upset, it's because I got him instead of them."

By Brian Mansfield

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