Marty Stuart Plays Fair's Best Show

This appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - September 28, 1997

The Fair Park Coliseum at the Panhandle South Plains Fair (Lubbock, TX) was uncomfortably warm when Marty Stuart took the stage for his first show at 7 p.m. Saturday. The audience felt the heat, and Stuart was performing, in black, under hot stage lights.

Is it any wonder that at one point, he faked a firm countenance and said, ''Don't mess with me. I'll shut this show down and take all of you out on the Ferris wheel. Or if somebody's got a pond, we'll just go skinny dippin' instead.''

Yeah, right. Like Marty Stuart would actually give up any opportunity to play music.

Those who found it warm at 7 p.m. watched Stuart set the hall on fire yes, even after the air conditioning kicked in with blistering guitar licks, great vocals and arrangements that showcased his band and his own songwriting ability.

Stuart always has been a maverick of sorts, but he knows what he likes. Backstage, he was busy expressing his admiration for Lubbock's Buddy Holly Music Festival and ''that Depot District of yours.'' Stuart, you'll recall, also was featured on Nashville's recorded salute to Holly on MCA and didn't mind playing Holly tunes Saturday.

It was in 1992 that Stuart made his Lubbock fair debut in a free concert sponsored by KLLL-FM and absolutely brought down the house. Don't buy the cynical claim that entertainers just take the bucks and run. Stuart took the time to mention, ''I still remember that day we arrived here. We'd been having some trouble getting accepted in Texas because we don't wear hats or look like George Strait, not that I wouldn't like to look like George Strait.

''But I was driving around, listening to KLLL and a DJ there played my song 'Tempted.' I called home and said, 'I just heard it on the radio. We've got to release that as our next single.' At the time, we had 'Little Things' on the charts. So as far as Texas goes, Lubbock was the first place we were accepted.''

He met with even more acceptance Saturday, showing off his and the four-piece band's musicianship time and again.

Stuart added a razor-sharp edge to songs such as ''That's Country,'' saluted Waylon Jennings and astonished the crowd by using mandolin as a lead instrument on ''Oh, What A Silent Night,'' a tune about being alone on which Gary Hogue's steel guitar just dripped loneliness.

Steve Arnold was spotlighted playing thumb-slapping bass guitar solos, and guitarist Brad Davis Jr. also showed off some hot licks and was especially entertaining when trading riffs with Stuart at center stage.

Stuart played 70 minutes, then allowed Hogue to shine for the encore. The guitar-driven numbers sizzled and ''Hillbilly Rock'' became a statement.

So let 1997's fair be remembered as the year Connie Smith, Stuart's wife, hypnotized with her voice on opening night and Stuart then brought closure with the best show of the week.

A-J Entertainment Editor

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