Stuart Is High On Country's Mountain Top

Singer's Joy Is Obvious As He Explores Genre He Loves

This article appeared in Billboard Magazine - March 12, 1994

Watching Marty glow: As vividly as Hank Williams symbolizes the misery in country music, Marty Stuart symbolizes the joy. No one else is so totally and blissfully immersed in the business and all its manifestation as he; in the sounds and styles, its folklore and history, its road life and rhinestones. To see him work and hear him talk is to witness a kid who is still rapturous over his first big break.

Stuart loves what he is doing--and he wants you to feel the excitement. What makes his zest remarkable is that Stuart's big break came 23 years ago when he was only 13 and the great Lester Flatt drafted the youngster into his bluegrass band. In doing so, Flatt got a first-rate mandolin player, and country music got an in-house fan whose verse of delight remains unblunted to this day.

Let it be noted, though, that Stuart does not approach country music with a hushed reverence. Nor has he cause to. He has picked, bantered, and partied with the giants--from Roy Acuff to Ernest Tubb to Johnny Cash--and knows the difference between artists who soar on their art and the hangers-on who are merely ballast. His affection for his peers and the music they make is deep, but it is also rough, fresh, and frequently bawdy.

While he was developing as a musician, Stuart discovered he had considerable skills as a writer of prose, particularly when it came to chronicling the day-to-day musical life around him. And he also has become an avid historian of the music, both from his reading and from his long conversations with those who have made the history. Having been well-mentored himself, Stuart has been generous in mentoring many of the newer country acts. When certain injudicious remarks led to bad blood between his friend Travis Tritt and Billy Ray Cyrus, it was Stuart who played the peacemaker by joking the whole matter back to its essential absurdity.

These days, the shock-haired and brightly festooned Mississippian is popping up wherever there's good music or a good cause. Appropriately, he latest undertaking is co-hosting an infomercial luring visits to Music City. You can bet he's sincere. The town's been a blast for him.

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