Marty Stuart

This appeared in the book The Stars Of Country Music

Colorful and talented country music star Marty Stuart likes to say he earned his high school diploma as a mandolin player in Lester Flatt's band in the 1970s and his university degree as lead guitarist in Johnny Cash's band in the early 1980s. Stuart grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where his father was a factory supervisor and his mother a bank teller. He was hired at age 12 to play mandolin with a gospel-bluegrass band, The Sullivan Family. A year later, he was recruited by the late, legendary Lester Flatt after the singer had split from longtime partner Earl Scruggs. Following Flatt's death in 1979, Stuart hooked up with another music legend, Johnny Cash, performing with him until 1985.

All along, Stuart knew he wanted to create is own music--when the time was right. He released two independent albums, Marty: With A Little Help From His Friends in 1978 and the acclaimed Busy Bee Cafe in 1982 on the Sugar Hill label. Four years later, he joined CBS Records and put out Marty Stuart, featuring the top 20 country hit, "Arlene." But CBS and Stuart disagreed about musical direction, and the young veteran went looking for other opportunities.

Stuart continued to write prolifically while working to establish his singing career. His songs were recorded by such diverse performers as Mark Collie, Emmylou Harris, Buck Owens and Jann Browne.

In 1989, Stuart re-emerged on MCA Records with Hillbilly Rock. The album put a fresh spin on indigenous American music by going back to the place where the roots of country and rock 'n' roll intertwine. "This is not a rockabilly album," Stuart said when Hillbilly Rock was released. "This is hillbilly music--with a thump." The album's radio hits included a version of Johnny Cash's "Cry, Cry, Cry" and Stuart's own "Western Girls" and "Hillbilly Rock," which became his signature song.

By this time, Stuart had developed a unique stage style built upon a 400-piece collection of vintage rhinestone jackets, hand-tooled cowboy boots, and other fancy stagewear. He updates the colorful western-style attire worn by such country legends as Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, and Webb Pierce with faded Levis and black or bleached-white T-shirts.

Stuart's next album, Tempted, kept the momentum of Hillbilly Rock going. Also produced by Tony Brown and Richard Bennett, it showcased the singer / instrumentalist's talent for bluegrass and gospel while letting him expand on his country-rock style.

If Hillbilly Rock and Tempted laid the groundwork for Stuart's climb to the top, 1992's This One's Gonna Hurt You, clinched it. Two duets with Travis Tritt, the title cut and "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," earned the pair several music awards and launched their successful "No Hats" tour. The album was Stuart's first to go gold.

Stuart's superb effort, Love And Luck, co-produced with Tony Brown, occupied much of his time in 1992 and 1993. He spent a year writing and gathering songs for the album and actually postponed recording it for several months until he found the right music. The outcome is a highly personal album in which emotions run deep, particularly in the straight-from-the-heart ballad "That's What Love's About" and the title track. After Stuart finished the album, he put together a new band, the Rock and Roll Cowboys, to showcase his new music. With talent like Stuart's, he won't have to rely on luck to soar to new heights.

Marty Stuart

Born: September 30, 1958 in Philadelphia, MS

Musical Influences: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash

First Hit: "Hillbilly Rock" (1990)

Other Notable Hits: "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " (with Travis Tritt, 1992); "Tempted" (1991); "Little Things" (1991); "Til I Found You" (1991)

Best Albums: Tempted (1991); Hillbilly Rock (1990)

Awards Include: Grammy, Best Country Vocal Collaboration (with Travis Tritt, 1993); Country Music Association Vocal Event of the Year(with Travis Tritt, 1992)

Achievements: Grand Ole Opry member (1992)

Personal: Stuart is well known for his collection of Western suits designed by classic country stagewear designers Nudie and Manuel. Stuart and Johnny Cash's daughter Cindy were married for five years.

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