Dubbed "Mr. Smooth" for his warm, velvety vocal approach, Jerry Wallace scored a pair of pop smashes during the late '50s before enjoying even greater commercial success as a country singer. Born in Guilford, MO, on December 15, 1928, Wallace was the son of a grocery store owner. After a brief stay in Arizona he settled in Hollywood, and following a U.S. Navy stint he signed to the Allied label to cut a series of little-noticed singles including "Little Miss One," "That's What a Woman Can Do," and "Runnin' After Love." Upon signing to the Challenger label, Wallace notched a Top 20 pop hit via 1958's "How the Time Flies," followed a year later by the million-selling "Primrose Lane." However, his pop career quickly stalled, and for a time he focused on his acting career, appearing in two 1964 features, Flipper's New Adventure and Goodbye Charlie. That same year Wallace scored minor hits with "Shutters and Boards" and "In the Misty Moonlight," singles that heralded the beginning of his shift to the country market. A move to Mercury Records accelerated the transformation, although follow-ups like "Life's Gone and Slipped Away" and "Sweet Child of Sunshine" earned scant attention from Nashville radio.
With his Nat King Cole-inspired croon, Wallace was nevertheless a natural fit with the dominant country-pop ethos, and upon signing to Decca in 1970 he scored a Top 30 country hit with "After You" — 1972's crossover smash "To Get to You" earned a Single of the Year nomination from the Country Music Association, and with "If You Leave Me Tonight I'll Cry" (prominently featured in an episode of the Rod Serling television series Night Gallery) he topped the country charts. Wallace also reached number two with "Do You Know What It's Like to Be Lonesome," and subsequent hits like "Don't Give Up on Me," "My Wife's House," "I Wonder Whose Baby (You Are Now)," and "Comin' Home to You" kept him at the forefront of country radio playlists during the mid-'70s. Protracted litigation against his management derailed his commercial momentum, however, and he began hopscotching from label to label in a failed attempt to jump-start his career. The 1980 single "If I Could Set My Love to Music" proved his final chart entry, and outside of the occasional live performance he spent the remainder of his life outside the public eye. Wallace died of congestive heart failure in Victorville, CA, on May 5, 2008. ~ Jason Ankeny