Marty Stuart

This is from The Encyclopedia Of Country Music

Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, September 30, 1958

John Marty Stuart is one country star who has never lost his excitement as a fan. Though he has put several of his own singles in the Top Ten and counts among his friends a long list of Hall of Famers, Stuart still goes out of his way to buy old records and memorabilia, to meet new stars as well as old, and to write articles about his heroes in Country Music Magazine and the Journal of Country Music. Stuart has one of the world's best collections of country music artifacts and often loans items from his stash to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has served on the board of the Country Music Foundation since 1991, and he became board president in 1996. He's crazy about hillbilly music, and that enthusiasm feeds every songwriting session, recording session, or concert in which he participates.

Stuart is a top-notch picker on guitar and mandolin, but he possesses only a modest tenor voice and doesn't even attempt big statements or grand drama in his songwriting (which nevertheless reflects solid commercial instincts). He makes his ingrained excitement so contagious, however, that he has surmounted his limitations to become one of country's best-liked performers. His songs have been recorded by Wynonna Judd and George Strait, and Stuart has played onstage or in the studio with artists such as Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Neil Young, Ernest Tubb, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris.

Stuart's eagerness to explore country music couldn't wait for high school. He was twelve when he toured with Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, a gospel group, to Pentecostal churches throughout the South and Midwest. Stuart was thirteen when bluegrass legend Lester Flatt hired him as a mandolinist; they played together for six years until Flatt died in 1979. The youngster switched to electric guitar for a tour with Vassar Clements' Hillbilly Jazz, then back to acoustic to play with Doc and Merle Watson. For several years, Stuart backed his biggest hero of all, Johnny Cash. Stuart was even briefly married to Cash's daughter Cindy.

In 1977, Stuart released his debut album, Marty, With A Little Help From My Friends, on the small bluegrass label Ridge Runner, followed by 1982's Busy Bee Cafe on the slightly larger bluegrass label Sugar Hill. Dominated by older songs from the repertoires of Flatt, Cash, and Bill Monroe, the latter album featured musical contributions by Cash, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, but Stuart held his own amid the heady company. He didn't record again as a leader until 1986, when Columbia released the rockabilly-influenced Marty Stuart. It didn't sell, and the label decided not to release the more traditional follow-up, Let There Be Country, until 1992 when Stuart had scored some hits for MCA.

Stuart's first MCA album was 1989's Hillbilly Rock. As the title implies, it was old-fashioned country music with a rhythmic kick. Produced by the Steve Earle team of Richard Bennett and Tony Brown, the arrangements were lean, twangy, and punchy, and propelled the title cut into the Top Ten. The same approach fueled 1991's Tempted, which yielded two Top Ten singles, "Burn Me Down" and the title track.

At about this same time, Stuart co-wrote a song called "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " for an upcoming Travis Tritt album and was invited to play guitar on it. The two musicians hit it off so well in the studio that Tritt asked Stuart to sing a duet vocal on the song, which became a #2 smash in 1991.

The friendship implied in many country duets is sometimes an onstage act rather than an offstage reality, but Tritt and Stuart seemed to have formed a real bond. In 1992 they hit the road on the "No Hats Tour," an irreverent rebuke to the many "hat acts" dominating Nashville at that time. Tritt also sang duets on the title track from Stuart's 1992 album This One's Gonna Hurt You and from Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best (1996). Stuart contributed songs to Tritt's next three albums, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof, and The Restless Kind; played guitar on two of them; and sang a duet vocal on "Double Trouble" from the latter album.

When the anthology The Marty Party Hit Pack was released in 1995, it contained nothing from Stuart's disappointing Love And Luck (1994). The new album did contain all his hit singles, his first two Tritt duets, two new songs with the Mavericks' producer Don Cook, a version of "Don't Be Cruel" for an Elvis Presley tribute and Stuart's landmark collaboration with the Staple Singers on The Band's "The Weight" (Rhythm, Country & Blues). The Hit Pack remains the single best introduction to Stuart's ability to turn fandom into infectious performance.

In 1997 Stuart tackled some new territory hen Discovery Channel Online featured a ten-day cross country tour documenting his day-to-day activities. In that same year, he became the third person in the 150-year history of C. F. Martin & Company to have a signature guitar; at this writing, a Fender signature guitar created in his honor is expected in 1998. On July 8, 1997, Stuart married Connie Smith.

Written by Geoffrey Himes

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