Letter From The Publisher

Readers, Writers and Pickers Revisted

This Letter appeared in Country Music Magazine - November/December 1992

It would be hard to do another Johnny Cash story. After all, he's been on our cover 10 times. He's been a star since 1955. We've covered him six ways from Sunday. We have to keep our eye on him. He's too big not to. It's like turning your back on a rhinocerous just because he looks kind of placid at the moment. Don't do it! We've done some strange things to keep Cash in line. We had him interview his old roommate, Waylon, for us. He asked Waylon what he used to keep his hair looking so greasy. We had him write an editorial on who was important in country music. He mentioned Marty Robbins 16 times in two pages. Yes, Cash has done a lot for country music and Country Music. For example, in 1980, celebrating his own 25th anniversary, he made one of his best moves....he hired Marty Stuart, adding a jolt of electricity to his band worthy of The Man in Black himself.

Shortly after, I was visiting Cash, and he had asked Marty over to meet me. Introducing us he said, "Marty's a big fan of your magagzine." I didn't know that, but I knew who Marty Stuart was. He was the kid who, at age 13, left home to add another electric jolt to another powerhouse act, Lester Flatt's band. I knew because I read it in our February 1975 issue. And now to the point.

You wouldn't think it would be hard to do another Marty Stuart story. He's riding high. He's just a kid. The Glitterbilly Kid is what our own Patrick Carr calls him. But Patrick has done two definitive Marty Stuart profiles in Country Music (September/October 1986 and May/June 1991). Together, they paint a complete picture of Marty Stuart: musician, country music fan and human being. If Patrick did another "Marty Stuart piece," he'd just have to repeat most of what we've already published.

So, just like we have to do with Johnny Cash, we have to find another angle for Marty. Even though he's a kid, this is his 20th anniversary as a professional musician, reader of and write for this magazine. In this sense, as reader, writer and picker, Marty Stuart stands out, like Cash and only a few others, as someone who must be on our cover, especially during our 20th Anniversary Celebration. But that's a historical connection. There's another, more forward-looking reason: Our Readers Are Demanding It! Our centerfold has featured George Strait, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Dolly, Garth Brooks and Dolly--but none approached the reader response we got from our recent Marty centerfold. He's hot.

But, we needed a different angle. And Marty himself provided it. He called and told me he'd finally written down the story of his leaving home at age 13 for life on the road with Lester Flatt. I asked him to send it to me. As soon as I read it, I said wer're publishing this. It's a great human interest story about a piece of country music history set in the same time as the birth of this magazine. So, as a part of our ongoing 20th Anniversary Celebration, it fits like a glove. But an even better it came to pass when we got Marty to meet us at the New York City studios of our ace photographer, Leonard Kamsler, to shoot the pictures. Kamsler, a Carolina farm boy, took many of the classic photos in our last issue, including the dynamic Johnny Cash shot on page 46. Bringing Kamsler back to the fray after too long an absence is another bonus. We re-created the look of that classic shot for our opening photo on page 36 of this issue. To bring Marty's story up to date, but still keep it in his words, we asked him to pick photos from his personal collection and write captions.

Completing the circle, keeping our eye on J. R. Cash, we chose Patrick Carr's brilliant review of Cash's Rockabilly Blues album for our Classic Record Review on page 21. It shows not only what a great album it was, but what a grat writer and critic Patrick is. The album features a cover photo by Kamsler, guitar and mandolin work by Marty (his first on a Cash album) and jacket design by Virginia Team and yours truly.

Letter written by Russ Barnard, Publisher

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