Got a dollar for the shoes

tsj column writers pigeon droppingsBy Bob Hamill

It’s almost like Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Brad Smith starts his day as a handsome bass singer for the world famous Blackwoods. With his engaging smile and a voice that make the rafters shake, he’s the epitome of an entertainer.

The change happens as he makes his way from the Smoky Mountain Opry to the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show. He transfers from a sophisticated singer to the bumbling Bo Hatfield, Sevier County’s favorite hillbilly. Like Batman, he leaps into his “Bomobile” and races to meet his fans. Well, actually he climbs into an old Beverly Hillbilly type jalopy and moseys into Gatlinburg.

Brad was born and raised in East Tennessee. His family was poor, but he didn’t realize it. He spent his first 18 years trying to get out of Tennessee and the next 26 figuring out how to get back. He had very simple life goals. One was to never go eat another pinto bean again. He would dream of pizza and soda pop instead.

When he was growing up, his family would have beans on Monday. The rest of the week consisted of putting water on them. Brad mentioned, “I made a vow never to eat pinto beans and corn bread. Funny thing is, whenever I go to Cracker Barrel, the first thing I do is order beans and cornbread.”

He started singing at a very young age and enjoyed all kinds of music, but was really attracted to bass singing. He thought there was nothing like a bass and was determined that’s what he wanted to do. “It’s such an honor singing with The Blackwoods. They have had so many fantastic bass singers over time. I’m thrilled to be a part of the legend.”Bo Hatfield

When Brad is Bo Hatfield he can usually be seen at the Holler. He is very distinctive. Not just for his clothes and demeanor, but in particular his shoes. Both are different. When someone comes up to him and says, “I’ll bet you have another pair at home just like that,” Bo will collect a dollar from that person. Bo tells him “I used to say if I had a dollar every time someone said that to me, I would have a lot of money right now.” More often than not he collects. The money doesn’t go to Bo though. He set up a program that uses that money to buy shoes for kids that can’t afford them.

Brad is Native American. He, like a lot of people with Cherokee blood in them, was adopted by the Hopi tribe, which he considers a great honor. His Hopi name is Pakwa, which means “bullfrog that sings.”

Brad got off the road for a while so his wife Cassie could go back to nursing. He managed a Walmart in order to be home with his son Jackson. I asked him what was the best thing that ever happened to him. Without blinking an eye he said, “Our son. Without a doubt he was a gift from God. I just look at him and beam!”

Next time you are in Gatlinburg, be on the lookout for Bo. Talk about his shoes, but you better have a dollar.

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