From the way he looks and the way he contributes and leads his tight band, The Fabulous Superlatives, to the way he is unashamed to sing and play a true country song, it is very evident that Marty Stuart is a modern-day renaissance man.
Stuart, who has a firm grip on country music’s rich past and unselfishly shares that with his fans through his concerts, released "Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down" in April on Sugar Hill Records. The album is a traditional country masterpiece and serves as an accurate snapshot of exactly where his career currently resides.
"When I first came to Nashville, the most outlaw thing you could possibly do around here was to take country music and blow it up into rock and roll. Mission accomplished! Today, the most outlaw things you can possibly do in Nashville is play country music. When I reconnected with traditional country music, I found myself, my calling. The kind that is timeless, beautiful, beyond trend, the empowering force, the reflection of a people and a culture. The job seemed to be to champion it, love it, protect it, care for its people, attempt to write a new chapter," Stuart said in his recent public relations biography.
Growing up in Mississippi, Stuart was surrounded by an array of musical genres. Naturally, he was influenced by all of the sounds of the region.
In a 2008 phone interview, Stuart said, "I was exposed to Dixieland music, the blues, gospel and of course, a lot of country music. We had a local radio station, WHOC[-AM in Philadelphia, Miss.]. As a youngster, I listened to that station, and I loved their format. In the morning, they played country music. That was followed by the farm report [and] then the gospel hour. Later, they played rock and rock [and] then soul. In the evening, it was easy listening. I enjoyed all of it and all of those sounds are a part of me and my music today.
Aside from listening to the radio, Stuart was introduced to the sights and sounds of Nashville through some of the popular country television shows. It was these programs that led to Stuart wanting to pursue a career in music.
"It was a way of life for me to watch country music shows on Saturday afternoon," Stuart noted. "I would watch programs like ‘The Wilburn Brothers Show,’ ‘The Porter Wagoner Show’ and the ‘Del Reeves Country Carnival.’ It was the first vision I had of these artists. I had their records, but I was mesmerized when I got to actually see them. Plus, their programs offered hope and for a little while, it took people away from their problems and gave them some entertainment."
Speaking of television shows, he launched his own, "The Marty Stuart Show" on RFD-TV in 2008. The program is a throwback to those shows he adored while growing up.
"‘The Marty Stuart Show’ is exciting," he said. "My wife, Connie Smith, is a regular, as well as LeRoy Troy. Plus, each week we have a special guest. I’m thankful to RFD-TV for believing in this type of family entertainment."
In 1972, Stuart spent the summer performing with the Sullivan Family, a bluegrass gospel group from Alabama. His first big break came at the age of 12 when he joined Lester Flatt’s band, the Nashville Grass.
He remained there until Flatt became ill in 1978.
"I don’t know of anybody else I could’ve started with and learned the ropes about survival and making it in the music business," Stuart said of Flatt. "Lester was bigger than life to me, and he taught me an awful lot. I will always be grateful to him."
Later, he spent six years in the band of Johnny Cash. In the decade of the 1980s, Stuart recorded a handful of albums with minimal success. In 1989, he signed with MCA Records.
The next year, his hit single "Hillbilly Rock" placed him in country music’s mainstream. Stuart’s other hits include "Little Things," "Tempted" and "Burn Me Down."
Beebe writer Charles Haymes is a member of the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.