Pilgrim's Progress

Renaissance man Marty Stuart records a life in pictures

This appeared on Country Music Magazine - Winter 2000

Country fans know Marty Stuart as a talented singer and songwriter, but they may not know he's a talented shutterbug as well. Nonetheless, Stuart has been taking pictures for more than a quarter-century. The best are collected in his new book, Pilgrims: Sinners, Saints and Prophets.

"In my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd see a photograph I took published, much less turned into a book," Stuart says. "I can't believe they turned my hobby into work."

Pilgrims proves that Stuart's photography deserves such a showcase. Revealing his skilled eye and knack for catching off-the-cuff moments that reveal something about the subjects, the photo book presents a personal reflection on country music. Not only do readers learn something about Stuart's subjects, they also learn something about the man, his passions and his tastes.

The 192 pages contain more than photos. The book also features an extensive memoir by Stuart as he offers vivid and often poignant memories about Johnny Cash, Lester Flatt, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and many others.

"It goes through my entire musical career and traces the journey from the start to here," he says. "They all evoke special memories. I really didn't think it was time for an autobiography because I haven't done anything worth writing a book about yet."

The book also features family photographs taken by Stuart's mother while he was growing up in Mississippi. The earliest photograph of his own comes from July 1970 when a 12-year-old Stuart took a snapshot of country star Connie Smith as she sat in a car following a performance. Smith and Stuart would become husband and wife 27 years later.

"Connie says she remembers me taking it," Stuart says with a laugh. "I was trying to get her to remember me! On the way home that night, I announced that I was going to marry her someday."

Marty promises that Pilgrims isn't a one-off project. But he also emphasizes that he's not giving up writing and singing.

"There are so many other things to do besides sing three-minute songs and this is one of them," Stuart says. "I hope this is the first of many books. I've always felt like I have a few books in me, but that will have to wait for a bit. It's time to write some songs."

Written by Douglas Fulmer

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