Many long-time Bulloch County residents may remember the late Shorty Smith and the Pea Pickers, a popular band that entertained local crowds for more than 40 years. On Friday, a three-hour tribute concert by Smith’s family members, including his son, renowned songwriter Gerald Smith, the “Georgia Quackerjack,” will be performed at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
Shorty, a man whose stature explained his nickname, was known for his country, bluegrass and gospel music, for teaching guitar to children and adults alike, and for his kindness in providing musical happiness to people at church, in nursing homes and those who listened to his radio show out of a Swainsboro station.
His legacy is passed down through Gerald Smith, whose songs have been performed by many Nashville stars including George Strait, George Jones and more. He wrote Collin Raye’s hit “Every Second” and Lori Morgan’s “What Part of No (Don’t You Understand).”
But other family members are living the music life as well. Rising star Cody James is a grandson, and another grandson, Tracy Hagans, is pursuing a career in Nashville.
It was Hagans who came up with the idea of a family tribute concert, after speaking with Statesboro Kiwanis member Mike Bowen, who is in charge of the fair’s entertainment.
The concert will include “mainly family and others who played with Granddaddy,” Hagans said.
Hagans’ wife, Tonya, also chasing the dream in Nashville, “was 5 when she played with Granddaddy,” he said. Hagans and his wife were lifelong friends who married after a 20-year separation, he said.
Hagans also had a song recoded by a country star: Wynonna Judd performed his song “He Rocks” on one of her latest albums, and Tonya Hagans will perform that song Friday, he said.
Shorty’s daughter Debbie Smith Creasy will also sing, along with other family, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, Hagans said.
Shorty Smith and the Pea Pickers “formed way back, before I was born in 1954,” Creasy said. “He met and married Mama in 1946, just out of the Navy in WWII. He met Mama at a square dance in Hopeulikit.”
Shorty started out “playing with different people, then formed the band,” she said.
Later, he had a show aired from a radio station in Swainsboro.
“I can remember sitting in my high chair, and we would all listen to Daddy over the radio station,” Creasy recalled.
It was a family affair.
“All the children played and sang — at church, festivals, fairs, nursing homes all over Georgia,” she said.
Shorty’s children, Joy Smith, Wendell Smith, Charlene Smith Hagans, Gerald and Debbie, also played and sang with the Pea Pickers.
“Daddy was active until the day he died, July 1, 1999,” she said. “For 32 years, he played and sang and then taught Sunday school classes at Brown’s Nursing Home every Sunday.”
The “Georgia Quackerjack”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Gerald Smith has become famous in his own right. He was honored by the North America Country Music Association Hall of Fame as a “legendary songwriter” and is also known for his “Hee Haw” performance of “Georgia Quackerjack,” as well as several other novelty songs. He did not write “Georgia Quackerjack” but did pen several songs for the show.
Smith moved to Nashville in 1985 and since has had several songs performed by George Strait, George Jones, Johnny Rodriguez, the group Perfect Stranger, Justin McBride and many more artists.
He has performed with Roy Acuff, Roy Clark, Minnie Pearl, Percy Sledge, Jerry Reed, Barbara Mandrell, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Clower, T. Graham Brown and others.
As a child, “I just sang,” he said.
With talent on both sides of his family, music was a way of life. But after completing a stint in the military, Smith started playing the guitar and writing songs.
“I just have it in my blood,” he said.
He was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday, but Creasy said he and all other family members are excited about the concert.
There is no charge for the concert, which will run from 7–10 p.m., but admission to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is $5. The performance will be held in the Heritage Village area of the fairgrounds.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.