To clear up the misunderstandings that for long have surrounded the name "Roy Lett," I decided to put together this post, although I don't have much information or any of his recordings in my collection. For years, Roy Lett was believed to be a pseudonym for Memphis singer and label owner Shelby Smith, likely much due to the statement in the liner notes to the Stomper Time reissue CD "Fernwood Rockabillies" and possibly also "The Rebel - Rebel Ace Records Story."
However, I received a message from Roy Lett's daughter, stating and verifying that it was actually her father Roy Lett, who recorded "Rosalie" b/w "To Your Heart for a Moment" for Shelby Smith's Smitty Records (#55784) in 1960 - and not Smith hiding under another name. Roy Benton Lett was born on November 16, 1931, likely in Tennessee. He began his career on the Knoxville country music scene and appeared on such radio and TV programmes as WNOX's Tennessee Barn Dance and business man Cas Walker's show. Lett served in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War, eventually leaving as a corporal. By 1958, he and his family lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Lett was part of Don Gibson's touring band, performing on the Louisiana Hayride with the Gibson troupe. Gibson was one of country music's stars that had emerged from the Knxoville scene.
In 1960, Lett recorded what was likely his only solo outing. The songs were recorded at Slim Wallace's Fernwood studio in Memphis and Wallace contributed the song "Rosalie" for the session, while label owner Shelby Smith penned "To Your Heart for a Moment." Lett's daughter assumed that Lett was performing lead guitar on the recordings.
Tragically, Roy Lett died way too early on June 30, 1963, at the age of 31 years. The circumstances of his death are unknown to me. He is buried at Knoxville National Cemetery.
• Shelby Smith's empire of record labels
• Find a Grave entry
• Special thanks to Roy Lett's daughter Sadonna Lett