(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely) [Order this photo]
With a stack of CDs, T-shirts, bumper stickers and other merchandise to sign, Big Smo, whose real name is John Smith, kept busy while reuniting with old classmates, talking to younger fans and getting ready for his national television debut.
"Big Smo" will preniere next Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on A&E Network -- a real-life series that follows the local artist "as he takes his unique style of music to new heights," according to the network.
The line to meet and eat with Bedford County's country rapper grew longer as the afternoon heat simmered behind Yoes Brothers Barber Shop, and Smo said he was starting in his hometown "to make sure we take care of our local "kinfoke" before anybody else."
It was a busy day for Smo Tuesday, starting with an early morning interview on ZM Radio, following by talking to morning DJs Big D and Bubba for a segment to be aired Friday.
Then, it's all week in Nashville for the CMA Fest, with a performance on the Bud Light Stage in front of the Bridgestone Arena for the third year in a row, and then Thursday night, he'll be at LP Field presenting his new television show.
In a promo video for the series, Smo is told he is jumping from the junior varsity to the big leagues, and he said that anyone that knows him "knows I've been doing this a long time."
"This is just proof that hard work pays off," Smo said. "If you stay focused on a goal and dedicate your life to it, eventually you'll get to the top of the mountain."
"Now we just got to jump over to another mountain and climb even higher," he said, praising the local support he has gained over the years.
While Smo signed everything put in front of him, his new single "Workin'" was playing, and the meat was sizzling on the grill, which folks could sample with some of Big Smo's "Meat Mud" barbecue sauce that A&E is sponsoring with the Unionville artist.
But Smo said to know the true story, we needed to speak to the woman in charge -- his mother, Mary Jane Smith.
"I didn't ever dream of anything like this happening," she said. Smith still seemed to be in disbelief that her son has both a major release on Warner Bros. Records and a TV show starting next week.
Raising both Smo and her grandson, they used to sit in the back room of the house with a camcorder, filming themselves lip-syncing "all this music, and they knew every word," she remembered.
Smo always loved music, she said, playing the big boom boxes in the back of his vehicle, "and disturbed all the neighbors."
"All this big stuff" started in an old grocery store owned by Mary Jane's grandfather, which had been passed down in the family on their farm. Her husband and Smo fixed it up and turned it into a recording studio.
Working with Ray Riddle, a best friend of Smo, they began to record, with Ray manning the drum machine and Smo singing, recording their first CDs, and sending them off to be polished.
Mary Jane said not too many local people knew about the TV series and album until it was in the T-G a few weeks ago. Smo's mom is also on the show, seen asking her son if he robbed a bank when he places a huge wad of cash in front of her.
Smo's mom said she only wished her late husband, who passed away seven years ago, could have lived to see his son's success.
"I don't know what's in store for us, they said we'd never be the same," she said of her son's fame, laughing that Smo "got mobbed at Walmart" on Monday.