Main Street mural honors singer-songwriter Anthony Smith

ONEIDA, Tenn.  —  A new mural on the side of the Oneida Public Library pays homage to one of the town’s favorite sons, award-winning singer-songwriter Anthony Smith.

Before Smith moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music, he grew up in Oneida. The son of Ralph Smith and Carol Kitts Smith, he graduated from Oneida High School before pursuing a career in music when he was in his early 20s.

The Smith family’s roots run deep in Oneida. His great-grandfather was John J. “Hawk” Smith, a noted moonshiner who lived in what is now the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.

Smith had joined his first band by the age of nine, and was arranging music at his church by age 12. He cites his early musical influences as artists like Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Cash, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin.

As an adult, Smith joined the house band Sneaky Pete, based in London, Ky., which performed at the Soundstage Club. From there, he landed a spot at a singer/songwriter showcase at The Broken Spoke in Nashville. Mercury Nashville boss Luke Lewis received a demo of Smith’s music, and offered him a contract.

Smith’s debut album, If That Ain’t Country, was released in 2002 on the Mercury Nashville label. It produced three singles that charted on the U.S. Country charts, including “If That Ain’t Country,” “John J. Blanchard” and “Half A Man.”

Several of the songs from Smith’s debut album were recorded by other artists, including “John J. Blanchard,” a song about a comatose nursing home patient, which was recorded by Tommy Shane Steiner, and “Metropolis,” a song loosely based on Oneida, which was recorded by Sammy Kershaw. Also, “That’s What Brothers Do” was recorded by Confederate Railroad.

Meanwhile, Smith emerged as a highly sought-after songwriter. Songs to his credit include “Run” and “Cowboys Like Us” by George Strait, “I’m Tryin’” and “Chrome” by Trace Adkins, “Didn’t I” and “What Do Ya Think About That” by Montgomery Gentry, “My Worst Fear” by Rascal Flatts, “Kristofferson” by Tim McGraw and “Chasing Down a Good Time” by Randy Houser.

Smith also wrote songs for Faith Hill, Blake Shelton, Halfway to Hazard and others.

“Didn’t  I,” performed by Montgomery Gentry, was included on the soundtrack of We Were Soldiers, a 2002 film about the Vietnam War starring Mel Gibson.

Smith’s awards include “Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year” by Music Row magazine, as well as other awards from BMI, ASCAP and NSAI.

The mural features Smith playing his guitar against a backdrop of the historic O&W Railroad Bridge over the Big South Fork River near Oneida. It is part of the town’s efforts to revitalize South Main Street, which is where the public library is located.

“I don’t even know what to say. I am beyond honored and humbled,” Smith said of the mural. “I can’t even find the words to express how surprised and honored I am.”

Local businesses provided donations to help match grant funding, including First National Bank and United Cumberland Bank.

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