The country music industry lost a legendary member when D. C. "Smokey" Smith passed
away at home on Monday, February 3, 2014, due to complications following two surgeries
for a traumatic brain injury. The former local radio and television personality, entertainer,
recording artist, promoter and owner of Smokey Smith Tours would have been 92 on February 12.
He was born on February 12, 1922, in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in
Lawrence, Kansas. It was there he learned at an early age that singing and playing guitar
created the perfect tempo for his life.
Smokey's career began in California, which spanned most of the 1940's as a recording artist
and ballroom singer. It was there his reputation for constantly puffing on his
favorite cigars earned him the lifelong and much preferred identity of "Smokey."
He later migrated to Des Moines in 1950, becoming a popular entertainer and broadcast personality on
KRNT Radio. When KRNT-TV (now KCCI) began airing in 1955, he had the area's first
live primetime country music television show. He later worked for local radio
stations KWDM, KWKY and KNIA in Knoxville.
Smokey also promoted country music shows at KRNT Theater for 24 years. The early success
of those events led him to include six other Iowa cities on his tours before expanding into six
other states as well. This distinction earned him membership into an elite group of promoters
known as "package show specialists" that controlled vast territory in their respective regions.
It wasn't an easy task handling every last detail of every event, some bordering on catastrophic,
from an occasional headline artist who didn't show up to inclement weather which often
did. Yet, adversity could never stifle that hair-trigger laugh so instantly recognizable even
in a crowded room.
His tenacity proved to be the collateral earning him recognition as one of the premier promoters
in the country. This wasn't the only reason he also became an icon in Nashville's entertainment
community. Hiring every name act of the era would have probably qualified
in itself, however, he also provided significant leadership in 1953 during creation
of the Country Music Disc Jockeys Association.
By 1958 Smokey was serving as treasurer of the group and again displayed foresight in supporting a
drive encouraging the membership to disband in favor of creating a much broader coalition
known as the Country Music Association. He became one of the very first
board members of the organization now recognized worldwide.
Smokey was a 33rd degree Freemason for 61 years, a 60-year member of the Knights Templar
and the Za-Ga-Zig Shrine. A sampling of his many awards includes the Johnny Cash Award
of Merit; induction into both Nashville's Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame
and the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the. International Media Award presented by the
Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE) in Nashville and many other Iowa and
The State Historical Society of Iowa honored him in 2011 by recognizing his many achievements
with a special exhibit of personal memorabilia entitled "Smokey Smith: Iowa's Mr. Country Music."
It was the first time the organization chose to honor an Iowa personality from the country music industry.
Smokey was always humbled by the special attention he received, even to the point of questioning
whether he deserved it at times. To him, the crowning achievement in life was his
family, especially the granddaughters and great grandchildren that simply knew
him as "Papa."
His huge success in life was only eclipsed by a gregarious persona best described by
entertainer Wanda Jackson, who lovingly saw him as "kind of a Santa Claus figure with
a cigar." He had that type of personality, too, she said, "always jovial and laughing
all the time, just a happy guy."
Smokey was preceded in death by his mother, Vanera; wife Lucille and their son,
Leon. He is survived by his daughter, Carol (Terry) Manley, of West Des Moines; granddaughters
Diane (Brian) Ahrenkiel of Waukee; Christi (Christopher) Power of Van Meter and
Mindy (Layne) Wardenburg of Clive; great-granddaughters Carolyn and Caylee Power; great-grandson Andrew
Mason Ahrenkiel; sisters-in-law Estelline Jones of Marshfield, Missouri; Ophie Anderson
of Burleson, Texas; Janell Shackelford of Austin, Texas, nieces, nephews and many
A visitation with the family present will be held from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. on Sunday,
February 9, 2014, at Iles Funeral Home - Westover Chapel located at 6337 Hickman Road in
Des Moines. Funeral services will immediately follow the visitation. A private family graveside
service will take place later at Masonic Cemetery in Des Moines.
The family acknowledges special appreciation to HCI Care Services of Central Iowa for its
compassionate understanding and steadfast commitment to provide Smokey with
excellent health care.
Memorial contributions in Smokey's honor may be directed to the Shriners Hospitals for
Other Articles of Interest:
(Note: Some news media sites
require user registration to read articles and/or to send you 'targeted' email