Marty Stuart's Backyard Painting Party

This appeared in Country Weekly - March 2, 1999

No matter how big they get, every fan club starts with a couple of believers. Marty Stuart's club got its start in 1988 at Fan Fair--Nashville's annual mega-meet 'n' greet--when Judy Allston and Pat Katz handed out membership applications. "We had 13 takers," says Judy. A year later, Marty was releasing his second album, Hillbilly Rock, and Fan Fair was just around the corner. It was time for Marty to have his own booth at the fair so fans could actually meet him.

"Everything got done at the last minute," recalls Judy. "The Saturday before Fan Fair, we were in Hilda Stuart's backyard in Smyrna--she's Marty's mom--and Hilda was plying us with sweet ice tea. Bill Stone, her next-door neighbor, had finished the booth and we had to create a red, black and silver backdrop to coordinate with the album cover.

"First we sent Marty for paint. We covered Hilda's patio with pages of The Tennessean, then we painted a sheet of plywood bright red and had some more iced tea. Then we gave it a second coat. We went through a lot of tea.

"Photographer Beth Gwinn had Marty's photo enlarged for the booth. Marty's sister Jennifer designed the cactus, and his pal Paul Howie stenciled the letters.

"Friday night, Marty played a tribute to Ralph Stanley at Nashville's Summer Lights show. Saturday, we worked on the booth. Saturday night, Marty had his own showcase in front of the courthouse and Sunday morning he did 'Gospel on the Steps' with Tammy and Jerry Sullivan singing on the steps of McKendree United Methodist Church. He did three shows that weekend on top of everything else.

"Monday, we lugged the booth to Fan Fair in Bill's pick-up. Fan Fair started Tuesday. A couple of hours after the thousands of fans rolled in, I looked over and there was Marty sitting in one of our lawn chairs--we took our own chairs because it was cheaper than renting them--and he looked as if it had just dawned on him that he really was gonna make it." Marty was right--"Hillbilly Rock" became his first Top 10 single.

"That's how it started. Year one, passing out our club applications. Year two, Marty's first Fan Fair booth. Year three, our first fan club party in a Pizza Hut near Vanderbilt University. By then there were 60 members and half of them showed up. Marty's reputation got bigger every year; so did the club. Eventually we had 9,800 members.

"Last year, Pat and I finally retired. Now Jodee Stocki--she's married to Marty's drummer Gregg--runs the club. She's doing just great."

By Catherine S. Rambeau

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