Florida Strawberry Festival - Plant City, FL on February 27, 1999

I arrived at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds at around 2:50 p.m. with my mom along with me. The day was sunny and warm a mild breeze blew within the area near the stadium. I smiled as mom and I continued on towards the stage and the stadium itself.

(At 3:00 p.m. they let us into the gates for the reserved seats and my first shot was towards the souvenir stand. I got two T-shirts, two pictures of Marty in a light blue with white horseshoe jacket holding his guitar at an angle, and one black & white with Marty and the Rock & Roll Cowboys pictured.

We headed for our seats and waited for what seemed like forever, I looked down at my watch and it was five minutes before the 4:30 show started. Then it happened. That five minutes flew by and out walked the Rock & Roll Cowboys.

The thunder of music filled the speakers -- all 38 of them, split into two separate sets hanging from the ceiling of the stage. The music echoed throughout the stadium and back grandstand seats, the tune "Marty Stuart Visits the Moon" edited version of the song.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, make welcome," I had forgot what was said in between here, "Marty Stuart!" The crowd cheers as Marty strolls out onto the stage wearing a black and light blue paisley shirt, white lace-up leather pants and matching denim looking blue boots.

Marty talked about doing a show in Georgia the night before and how Travis Tritt his ol' buddy came in and sang with him during a concert there. He talked about Travis was home recovering from what happened last night. Everybody got a good laugh on that and about him winning a CMA Award for their song, I figure he was speaking of "Honky Tonkin" song.

He starts to work on the crowd here to get their spirits up; he starts off singing "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best." It fits as I got to thinking part of the song mentions a Saturday night and it just happens to be a Saturday.

If I remember right, it was "Tempted" next and then a sad song I love. "Blue Train" was played it brought a tear to my eye. Marty played a few licks on his bluegrass roots, by the song called "Oh What A Silent Night." His mandolin seemed to sing to everyone out in the stadium, sending a haunting chill through the atmosphere and to my very soul.

The highlight of the mandolin playing was when Marty danced out in front of the speakers on the edge of the stage and stepped on the cord to it yanking it out in the process. He calmly looks down and sees the cord out, bends over, picks it up, and puts it back in again. Somewhere in between he says, "Well that sucks!" and grins, turning a bit red in color. The band laughs at him as well.

Him and Brad do a one-on-one with guitars sort of a dueling banjos picking that sent my foot a tapping to every part the played. Marty did a bit of kidding as he said, "This is the first time we've been out of the house since winter."

Marty cut into Tom Petty's song, "Southern Accent" which my mom whispered to me, "Sounds a lot like you huh?" I nodded in response and continued to listen and watch Marty wiggle and dance across the stage. He turned on the crowd with "Shake your Hips," giving my heart a good workover in the process. I even started to shake my hips in the chair I was seated in.

But saddest part of the concert was his solo new song called, "Hobo's Prayer." Marty talked about going down to the train tracks with a friend and getting on one of the trains. Then coming home and telling his mom that he wanted to be a hobo, but instead ended up playing music. As he put it, "Same difference."

I looked about and around me to see not a dry eye. All were deeply moved by this song and the first words out of my mom's mouth were, "We've got to get that album when it comes out." I agreed. When it does come out, be sure to listen to this song. It will bring a tear to your eye.

After awhile Marty asked for requests and several people shouted out what they wanted to hear. One shouted out "That's Country!" to which Marty replied, "That'll be $20." Then from where I was seated, I hear another voice say, "Achy Breaky Heart," to which he replies, "That'll be $50."

A huge round of laughter came from the crowd, as Marty continued by saying, "Let's leave ol' Billy Ray alone." To which he then plays Johnny Cash's version of " Long Black Veil." Again, mom and the lady sitting next to her started to cry. "That song always make me sad," the lady replied as mom wiped tears from her eyes, agreeing with her.

Then he ended the show with his hit song, "Hillbilly Rock to a cheering crowd that filled almost every seat on the reserved and the whole stone bleachers behind that. It was well worth the money and Marty looks better than he ever did before!

Backstage I got to tell him about my brothers passing, I got so choked up that I could hardly get out the words. Marty could see my expression and my mom's drop to sadness. When we walked up Mike asked, "Where's your brother at?"To which I began to tell Marty, "I've got some things to give to you and some bad news."

Marty looked up as I choked out what I had to say, "Remember back in February 1997 when you got to see my brother? That very July of the same year, he died. He didn't make it this time Marty." I watched Mike turn and walk away leaving Marty with two sheriff's department men to either side of him.

Marty could see that sadness in Mike's eyes, as well as mine. I gave him a copy of the poem I wrote about my brother called, "A Brother and Best Friend." and the last picture of the both of us together. I also gave him a copy of the last group picture that was taken right there at the Strawberry Festival in 1995.

I also make dream catcher jewelry and I gave him one that I made a few years ago with the phrase, "And give this to your mama and, oh by the way, this is my mama." Introducing him to mom, as he said, "Hello mama." as he shakes her hand in the process.

"I've got one more thing to give to you." I took out the tape I had inside of my purse and told him, "This is a very special tape Marty. It has my brother on it singing along with Dwight Yoakam and, at the very end of the second side, has his belly laugh. The tape has a few songs that he loved in between."

Mom popped up and said, "I hope I've got enough time to get back to work." Marty asked, "What do you work at?" To which mom replies, "I'm a process server." He just about died right there. He thought he was going to be served with papers to which I said, "No, No, No, No! You're not getting any papers. You're safe!"

He sighed with relief, and slowly reached out and gave mom and me a big hug. Mom said, "I want to thank you for giving my son so many hours of entertainment. I really do appreciate it." Marty just about cried. I knew he felt really bad about my brother passing as he got to meet him back in 1993 when he first came out of the hospital after having a bad series of seizures. He made it then but didn't this time around.

As mom and I were walking off, I reached over and said, "By the way, that tape is 110 minutes long. You'll have plenty of time to listen to it." As Marty turned and hugged me around my shoulders he replied, "I'll be sure to listen to it."

I smiled knowing that I finally got something off my mind and the relief I felt by telling Marty the bad news. But I know that maybe through the tape of music I gave him, it will make a smile appear once more upon his face. I know now that Marty Stuart is one of the most warm understanding gentlemen that I've ever met and, believe me, his concert this year was well worth the money!

Review by Dawn Watson, Lithia, FL

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