The Amazing Rhythm Aces’ Russell Smith Dies at 70

Writing Credits Include "Third Rate Romance," "Heartbeat in the Darkness"

Russell Smith, best known as the leader of the Amazing Rhythm Aces, has died from cancer in Franklin, Tennessee. He was 70.

The band’s signature hits include “Third Rate Romance” and “Amazing Grace (Used to Be Her Favorite Song).” The band received a 1975 Best New Artist Grammy nomination, while their 1976 single, “The End Is Not in Sight (The Cowboy Song),” won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Smith, who was born in Nashville, composed all three of these songs.

After the band’s pop career had ended, Smith continued to contribute to country music. He charted a 1984 country single with Capitol, as well four others on Epic between 1988 and 1989, but none of these cracked the Top 30.

In 1986, Don Williams earned a No. 1 hit with “Heartbeat in the Darkness,” which Smith co-wrote with Dave Loggins. A year later, Smith returned to the top with T. Graham Brown’s “Don’t Go to Strangers,” written with J.D. Martin. He secured another No. 1 with Ricky Van Shelton’s “Keep It Between the Lines” in 1991, follow by Randy Travis’ “Look Heart, No Hands” in 1993.

Smith’s other notable country cuts include Sammy Kershaw’s 1994 remake of “Third Rate Romance,” as well as John Conlee's "Old School" (1985), Highway 101's "Honky Tonk Heart" (1989), and Mel McDaniel’s “Big Ole Brew” (1982), as well as Pam Tillis’ “Do You Know Where Your Man Is” (1993) and Tanya Tucker’s “Dancing the Night Away” (1977). His songs were also recorded by John Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, George Jones & Vern Gosdin, Barbara Mandrell, The Oak Ridge Boys, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, and Travis Tritt.

Photo used by permission: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 18 -- Pictured: Musical guest The Amazing Rhythm Aces perform on May 10, 1980.

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