Betsy Smittle, a musician and gay rights activist who was also the half-sister of country superstar Garth Brooks, died on November 2, 2013, at the age of 60. The cause of death was not publicly announced, but it was later revealed by Brooks’ daughter August that Smittle had been fighting cancer for a long time.
A Talented Bass Player and Singer
Smittle was born on February 18, 1953, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of Colleen McElroy Carroll, a 1950s-era country singer, and Jim Smittle, a draftsman. Carroll later married Troyal Brooks, Garth Brooks’ father, and had four more children with him, including Garth and Kelly.
Smittle started playing music at an early age and learned to play the bass guitar, the piano, and the saxophone. She joined Brooks’ band Stillwater in 1989 and played bass and sang backup vocals for him until 1994. She performed on several of Brooks’ albums, such as Ropin’ the Wind, The Chase, In Pieces, Fresh Horses, and Double Live. She also appeared in some of his music videos, such as “The Thunder Rolls” and “We Shall Be Free”.
Smittle also had a solo career and released an album called Rough Around the Edges in 1994. She toured with singer Gus Hardin and appeared on her 2001 album, I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can. She also worked on radio and television, participating in various shows and programs.
A Proud and Vocal Advocate for the LGBTQ+ Community
Smittle was openly gay and a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. She participated in numerous gay rights events, such as the Tulsa Pride Festival, the Oklahoma City Pride Festival, and the International Gay Rodeo Association. She also supported various organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, and the Tulsa Area United Way.
Smittle was not afraid to express her identity and opinions, even in the conservative country music scene. She once said in an interview, “I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of my family. I’m proud of my music. And I’m proud of my community.”
A Loving and Supportive Family Member
Smittle had a close relationship with her half-brother Garth Brooks, who often praised her talent and personality. He told Oklahoma Today in 1993, “She has a wonderful knack for rhythm, but probably her greatest talent is relating to the audience.” He also called her “Hollywood” because of her glamorous style and charisma.
Smittle was also a loving aunt to Brooks’ three daughters, Taylor, August, and Allie. She was especially close to August, who shared a tribute to her on social media after her death. “My beautiful Aunt lost her battle with Cancer early Saturday morning,” August wrote. “So happy she got to meet my beautiful daughter! We love you and miss you already Aunt Betsy!”
Smittle was married to Stephanie Myers, a photographer and graphic designer, who survived her. She also had a son, G.W. Smittle, from a previous relationship.
A Legacy That Lives On
Betsy Smittle was a talented and versatile musician who left a mark on the country music industry. She was also a proud and vocal advocate for the LGBTQ+ community who inspired many people with her courage and compassion. She was a loving and supportive family member who cherished her relationships with her brother, nieces, and other relatives. She will always be remembered as a trailblazer, a role model, and a star.