Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, 1941-2010

The Sweet Inspirations (1967)

The Sweet Inspirations (1967)

There is more sad news this month. Myrna Smith, a member of the Sweet Inspirations vocal group, has passed away. She was 69 (Myrna Smith R.I.P 1941-2010 — Elvis Australia).

The Sweet Inspirations backed Elvis on stage from his return to live performances in 1969 through his death in 1977, performing with him in over a thousand concerts. Before becoming an integral part of Elvis’ live show, the Sweets were already a Grammy-winning gospel group that had backed Aretha Franklin, among others. Outside of their time with Elvis, their best known hit as a group was “Sweet Inspiration,” which was released as a single in 1968.

Myrna appears with Elvis in the documentary movies That’s The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972). She also appears with him in the television specials Aloha From Hawaii (1973) and Elvis In Concert (1977). “They help me get a feeling and get to my soul,” Elvis said of the group in 1969.

She can be heard on the following Elvis albums released during his lifetime:

  • From Memphis To Vegas/From Vegas To Memphis (Elvis In Person At The International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada) [1969]
  • On Stage-February 1970 [1970]
  • That’s The Way It Is
  • Worldwide Gold Award Hits, Volume 2 [1971]
  • Elvis As Recorded At Madison Square Garden [1972] (includes Elvis introducing Myrna)
  • Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite [1973]
  • Elvis (Fool)
  • Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis [1974]
  • Pure Gold [1975]
  • Elvis: A Legendary Performer, Volume 2 [1976]
  • From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Welcome To My World [1977]
  • Moody Blue

She also can be heard on countless other Elvis albums released since his death.

She loved Elvis “like a brother”

In a 2005 interview available on Elvis Australia, Myrna shared a special memory of Elvis:

This is when we first met him, y’know. [Elvis] had us up at the penthouse, and he was playing 45s. We were having a little party, a little get-together – drinks at the bar and stuff. [He] came up to me and said, ‘Do you wanna dance?’ It was a slow record. So I said, ‘O.K.’

“And I don’t think that Elvis had ever danced with a black woman before, because he started dancing with me, [and] I felt like just grabbing him and holding him, ’cause his whole body was trembling.

“And, but he was, y’know, he was shy anyway. But all these girls, y’know, that he’d been around, and he’s this macho lover, whatever, and he was [really] just a little boy [...] that’s what he was, y’know.

“I looked upon him, a part of my family, like. [W]hen he died and I was screaming, my mother said, ‘He’s not in the family. [Why] are you cry[ing], [why] are you breaking up?’

“Because I love him, he’s like a brother.”

Myrna dated Jerry Schilling, one of Elvis’ best friends, for a number of years. After Elvis’ death, the two married. Schilling went on to manage the Beach Boys, and Myrna co-wrote many of the songs on Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s 1981 self-titled solo album. Her marriage with Schilling ended in 1985 after five years, but the two remained friends.

In recent years, the Sweet Inspirations have continued to record albums and have performed in the Elvis Presley In Concert touring show.

Myrna, thank you for sharing your incredible voice with all of us. You will be missed, but always remembered.

My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this time.

* * *

Sylvia Shemwell, another member of the Sweet Inspirations, passed away earlier this year. To honor both ladies, I am planning a look back at the Sweet Inspirations in 2011.

* * *

Additional Research Sources

  • The Elvis Encyclopedia by Adam Victor, Overlook Duckworth, New York, 2008.
  • Elvis Presley: A Life In Music – The Complete Recording Sessions by Ernst Jorgensen, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1998.
  • Me And A Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship With Elvis Presley by Jerry Schilling with Chuck Crisafulli, Gotham Books, New York, 2006.
  • ELVIS: His Life From A To Z by Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius, Wings Books, New York, 1992.
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7 thoughts on “Sweet Inspiration Myrna Smith, 1941-2010

  1. George

    It’s just like a family member has passed, my heart is broken. What a beautiful talent and lady we have lost. My heart and prayers are with her family. Rest in Heavenly Peace Sweet Inspiration! Now you sing with the Angels……

  2. ROSIE ANDERSON

    I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET MYRNA IN THE PAST FEW YEARS.

    SHE WAS A DEAR SWEET LADY AND WAS SO HAPPY ALL THE TIME AND THE SMILE, I WILL NEVER FORGET IT!

    I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER TELLING HER OF THE YEAR I MET ELVIS IN GERMANY AS MY DAD WAS STATIONED WITH ELVIS.

    REST IN PEACE DEAR MYRNA, TELL ELVIS HELLO FOR US ALL AND SING SWEETLY

  3. Pingback: Sweet Inspirations documentary now available on DVD « The Mystery Train Elvis Blog

  4. Sandra (Vice) Gunn

    I first met Sylvia in 1980… I had just discharged from the USAF (March AFB, Ca.) and decided to stay in California, moving to Hollywood with my son. Ironically Sylvia lived in the bldg. right next door to me with teo of her children, the rest is history. We remained friends for many years along with my sister. I moved from Hollywood in 1996 and by then had lost contact with Sylvia, I would hear tat she lived in the San Fernando Valley, L.A. etc. , then I heard she’d had a massive stroke bt didn’t know where she was. I loved Sylvia like a sister and found her to be a very kind, loving woman. I never heard her speak a harsh word about anyone, she was very humble. I did speak to her briefly after the death of her son, but nothing after that. I am so ashamed that I am just learning of her passing over a year later, and I feel awlful, thats why we should keep in contact, call our friends, our love ones every now and again, just to let them know that you’re thinking of them, that they crossed your mind, your heart or both. I have no idea how to contact the children or grandchildren, though it would be nice to be able to give my condolensces. People would ask if we were related, both being “smooth chocolate”, tall and thin, lol. The world I’m sure is feeling a void without sister Sylvia’s presence. You’re with the angels and your son now. Rest in Peace, my sweet Sylvia. Love you, Sandra Vive-Gunn

    • Thank you for sharing this story with us. My condolences on the loss of your friend Sylvia. Her sweet voice will always be with us.

  5. I’m so sad’en to find this out just now cause i liked her i was a fan,i though she was fine and cute and i like the sweet inspiration they had soul like no other female group of the times.I really hate to here shes not with us anymore i really liked her shes with Elvis now jamming jam on baby..much Love to ya……Your Fan “B.T.III” from LA.Calif..

    • Thank you for posting your thoughts. I was surprised at the lack of mainstream media coverage of the passings of Sylvia and Myrna, as the Sweet Inspirations were famous in their own right before they even worked with Elvis.

      Although I was not able to make it out to Memphis this year, I’ve read thoughts from a lot of fans who were there at the Elvis Presley In Concert video/live show who missed their presence.

      And you’re right, the jamming is even better up there now.

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