Rodney Hall recalls singer/songwriter Russell Smith as one of those artists who immediately grabbed your attention the moment he stepped up to a microphone and began to sing.

Hall produced Smith's final solo album, "The End Is Not In Sight," at FAME Recording Studios. The album was released in 2001.

Smith, the founder of the Amazing Rhythm Aces, died Sunday at the age of 70 following a bout with cancer.

"It was a Top 40 Americana album," Hall said. 

Hall said Smith's track record as an artist and songwriter speaks for itself.

Smith was a staff songwriter for FAME in the early 2000s, Hall said.

"He wrote some great songs for us," he said.

Shoals guitarist Kelvin Holly said Smith loved coming to the Shoals to record, to write with other songwriters, and just hang out.

"He loved the vibe," Holly said. "He was one of the greatest songwriters. It would be great if people knew more about him."

Around 1995, Holly was invited to come to a small studio in Lebanon, Tennessee, to record with the Amazing Rhythm Aces.

"I knew who the Amazing Rhythm Aces were, but I was not familiar with all their music outside the obvious hits they had," Holly said. "I spent about a week and a half there cutting their comeback album."

Holly said he played on a few tracks and Smith offered him a job. He's been the Aces guitarist and has performed with them off and on since 1995.

"He was just a great lyricist," Holly said. "His lyrics could really tug at the heartstrings of somebody, especially if they were going through a life crisis."

The Amazing Rhythm Aces recorded their self-titled 1979 album at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios on Alabama Avenue in Sheffield with Jimmy Johnson serving as producer. The album included the hit "Lipstick Traces."

Russell Smith and the Amazing Rhythm Aces recorded "Midnight Communion" in 2007 at Cypress Moon Studios, which is located in the Alabama Avenue incarnation of Muscle Shoals Sound.

"I worked on several recordings with Russell Smith and also played many live dates with him," bassist David Hood said. "He was a gifted songwriter and a great friend. He was the ultimate performer, and audiences always loved him."

The Aces are known for the band's hit debut single, "Third Rate Romance," which was released in 1975, but Smith also penned songs for other artists including Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Leo Sayer, the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Lee, Mel McDaniel, Don Williams, T. Graham Brown and Ricky Van Shelton.

Sammy Kershaw, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, the Earl Scruggs Revue, Jesse Winchester, the Starland Vocal Band, the Drifters, the Fabulous Poodles and Roger Chapman have all covered "Third Rate Romance."

Holly said Smith has co-written songs with Shoals singer/songwriter James LeBlanc, who has also been a FAME staff writer.

In June 2018, Smith performed at a songwriting event at the Full Moon Theater at Cypress Moon Productions and the Amazing Rhythm Aces performed the next night.

Smith joked that his mother suggested he think about returning to college after playing "Third Rate Romance" for her over the phone. A few years later when he was playing on the Grand Ole Opry, his mother changed her views on her son's musical career.

Holly said Smith had been receiving treatment for cancer, but never bounced back.

He is survived by two sons, two grandchildren and a sister.

russ.corey@timesdaily.com

or 256-740-5738. Twitter

@TD_.RussCorey

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