R. Harlan Smith

R. (Robert) Harlan Smith. Singer, songwriter, record producer, b Central Butte, near Moose Jaw, Sask, 6 Nov 1939.

Smith, R. Harlan

R. (Robert) Harlan Smith. Singer, songwriter, record producer, b Central Butte, near Moose Jaw, Sask, 6 Nov 1939. An important figure in the development and promotion of country music in western Canada, he began his career in Edmonton as Bob Smith, playing guitar and singing in 1966 with Two Sharps and a Flat. His recording with the Common People for the Apex label of his 'Ode to Suburbia' was a major Canadian hit in 1970. He took the stage name R. Harlan Smith in 1972 and, singing in a characteristically relaxed, country-pop style, had a succession of hit singles 1972-80, including 'Ding-A-Ling Debbie' and 'Momma Brown' for GRT and 'Life & Love & You,' 'Here Comes Yesterday,' and 'We've Got the Magic' for his own Royalty label. His duets for Royalty with his wife, Chris Nielsen, 'Stolen Moments' (1979) and 'Meant to Be' (1980), were also popular.

In addition to LPs 1970-3 for Apex (Bob Smith Sings, AL-71654) and GRT (Uptown Country, 9230-1016; I Remember Love, 9230-1030), he made several albums 1974-9 for Royalty: Song for Shelly (R-2000-6), Song for a Country Man (R-2000-9), Here Comes Yesterday (R-2000-26), We've Got the Magic (R-2000-34), Stolen Moments (with Nielsen, R-2000-37), The Best of R. Harlan Smith (R-2000-18), and a cassette recording in 1988, Two Stepping Round (RPC-400-8804).

Although Smith concentrated his career in western Canada (fairs, rodeos, nightclubs, etc), he was seen on several national TV series (eg, 'Family Brown Country,' 'The Tommy Hunter Show,' 'Sun Country'), and his Canadian Country Music All-Star Show, established in 1987 largely with Royalty artists, travelled to Europe annually 1987-9. Smith recorded several singles through the 1990s, and as late as 2002, he had another charted single, 'All the Colors in My Rainbow.' His songs, over 100 in total, have been recorded by some 20 other artists, including Nielsen, Glory-Anne Carriere, Jimmy Arthur Ordge, Greg Paul, Joyce Smith, and Laura Vinson. Smith received Big Country Awards as a record producer (1976, 1980) and for best album (Here Comes Yesterday, 1977), as well as several Juno nominations.

As of 2003 Smith remained president of the Royalty Records label, which he had established with others in 1973. Many of Royalty's recordings were produced by Smith. The Royalty roster also included Carriere, Ordge, Paul, Vinson, Lisa Brokop, Gary Fjellgaard, Larry Gustafson, Danny Hooper, and Russell Thornberry. Smith was president of the Alberta Recording Industry Association in 1997, served twice as director of the CCMA, and was a recipient of the Alberta Achiever Award of Excellence.


Further Reading

  • Lane, Lois. 'R. Harlan Smith: winning in the west,' Jamboree, vol 1, Dec 1980

    Musselman, Bill. 'R. Harlan Smith ... "country royalty,'" CMN, vol 6, May 1985

    Charney, Dennis. 'Royalty Records ... in the new age,' CMN, vol 11, Sep 1990

    Covington, Vicki. 'The three sides of R. Harlan Smith,' CMN, vol 12, Jan 1992

    Jackson, Rick. Encyclopedia of Canadian Country Music (Kingston 1996)