Smith grew up in Brooklyn and worked as an NBC page boy. After
World War II, he worked as a radio advertising salesman for KYA in San
Francisco, and as the manager of KVSM San Mateo. In 1954 he and
KVSM owner John Malloy bought KJR in Seattle. They also bought KXL in
Portland and KNEW (later KJRB) in Spokane. Smith changed
KJR to a Top 40 format, hiring popular disc jockeys such as Dick
Stokke, Pat O’Day, Larry Lujack, Lan Roberts, and Lee
Perkins. KJR shot to number one and enjoyed almost a 40%
local audience share for a decade.
In 1957, entertainers Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye bought the three stations for $2 million, and Smith stayed on as manager. Sinatra sold out to Smith in 1964, and Kaye-Smith Enterprises was born. By the 1970s, Kaye-Smith owned ten radio stations, a concert promotion company, recording studio, film production company and a radio syndication company. Smith was one of six partners who brought the Mariners to Seattle in 1976.