Marty Stuart Takes Fun-Loving Show To TV

This appeared in Country Weekly - January 1995

Marty Stuart, country music traditionalist with a cutting edge, is blasting off with new success and the help of a rocket ship. The first of four Marty Party specials, co-starring Pam Tillis, Merle Haggard and David Ball performing in front of a unique, onstage rocket ship, is scheduled to air Wednesday, February 1 at 8 p.m. Eastern.

"I want to be on a first-name basis with the universe," the 36-year-old Mississippian explains. He's on his way.

He'll follow up with a new party favor in March with the release of The Marty Party Hit Pack, which will combine past favorites with new new cuts, two duets with Travis Tritt, a cover of Elvis' "Don't Be Cruel," and a collaboration with The Staple Singers.

Marty, a two-time Grammy winner, plans to explore another part of the musical universe this spring. He has been chosen to host the first British Country Music Awards in Birmingham, England on March 23. Two weeks later, he embarks on his first European tour as a solo artist, with dates scheduled in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, France, Sweden, Holland. Germany, Italy and Spain.

Western Europe will get a sample of what has made Marty a popular country favorite here. He combines good humor and an appreciation for Nashville's new sounds with an abiding respect for country traditions.
Those qualities all come to the fore in "The Marty Party Goes Honky Tonkin',"--the theme behind the first TNN: The Nashville Network special Marty and producer Fred Tatashore put together.

"This is by no means your typical concert," says Tatashore. "Marty wants the television audience to experience a lively night in a good honky tonk with all the spontaneity, friendship, and great musical performances you might hope to find there."

"Honky tonk music makes every night feel like Saturday night," professes Marty. "I'll consider it a successful evening if we get out of here without getting in a fight."

In keeping with the honky tonk theme, the evening resembles a continuous jam session, with jugglers, dancers, and a video wall recalling clips of some of the great honky tonkers of all time. Filmed last fall at Nashville's celebrated Wildhorse Saloon, the stage set was created with all those great honky tonkers in mind. Oversized images of Hank Williams Sr., Ernest Tubb and Jerry Lee Lewis oversee the proceedings, enlarged playing cards cover the band risers.

Stepping into the fray are Marty's friends--Pam, the 1994 Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year; Merle, the newest Country Music Hall of Fame member; and David, the guy with the original "Thinkin' Problem." They team up to take a one-hour musical journey through honky tonk past and present.

"Let's kick it off with a song written by the main man," says Marty. "I'm talking about Hank Senior...A song taught to me by my brother Travis Tritt." That introduction leads to the entire cast singing "Honky Tonk Blues."

During a segment with Pam, Marty jokes, "Pam, do you know what CMA stands for?" "No, Marty what?" she answers shyly. "Call Me Anytime."

And with that, she broke into one of her famous father Mel Tillis' honky tonk songs, "Heart Over Mind." "This was written in 1959 while he was driving a cookie truck in Florida," explains Pam. "He wrote three songs in one week and this is one of them."

All Marty's guests perform together in various combinations during the evening. Each contributes a favorite honky tonk song or two, such as David Ball's "Thinkin' Problem," Loretta Lynn's "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl" and Merle Haggard's "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down."

"Can you imagine country music without Merle Haggard," Marty asks Pam before they sing a verse of Hag's classic "Today I Stated Lovin' You Again." "No way," she answers. "I couldn't even think about it."

Later in the show, Marty quips: "Since we've got the best up here, I think we ought to sing one of the best songs written for country music, 'Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down.' Any young singer that comes to town who doesn't know verses and chorus to this one ought to be turned around and sent back home."

Introducing Merle as "The Poet of The Common Man," and David Ball as "The Guy Who Came To Town With A Classic Honky Tonk Song in His Gee-Tar Case," the evening proves that work can be fun, especially if you're working with Marty Stuart.

The other three specials will also carry a theme, his producer said. "We're going to start out in a honky tonk, the Wildhorse Saloon, and end up with a fourth special at a church. Marty Stuart's taste in country music covers a wide range of styles and so does his appreciation for parties. You can always count on him for a evening of good music and good fun," says Tatashore.

By Shannon Parks

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