Marty Stuart Loved Making Music At 3 Years Old

This appeared in Country Weekly - May 12, 1998

When did the music first start for Marty? "I think it was when he was born," says Hilda Stuart. As an infant, he would hold on to "this little music box and wouldn't let go. We would just keep winding and winding it for him. We have pictures of him lying in his crib holding that music box and listening to 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' over and over. He just loved it."

Hilda and Marty's father, John, both enjoyed music, but neither parent was particularly musical. So, the musical family tree didn't prepare Hilda and John for what was to come from their son.

When Marty was 3, his parents got him his first guitar. It was a plastic Mickey Mouse guitar, the crank-up kind. It didn't take long before that was his focus--making music. By 5, he wanted the real thing, "so we sent off and got him one."

Marty started teaching himself how to play and he went just about everywhere with his guitar.

The Stuart's neighbors owned their own business and Hilda says, "they were older and kind of like grandparents to him." Marty liked to go to their shop with his guitar and get up on the counter and play and sing. He was no more than 5 at the time. It's fair to say that was his first public performance, and he must have been good because they had him come back time and time again!"

Marty had been teaching himself and was getting some help from different town folks who played. When Hilda realized how serious Marty was, she "got him guitar lessons. It ended up that he knew more than the boy I had hired to teach him. Marty was teaching his teacher, so I took him out of that," laughs Hilda.

"By 8 or 9, Marty was doing his own thing--when you have someone like Marty, you have to let them do it themselves," reflects Mom. He started playing mandolin and a few older people who played showed him a little--but he really learned on his own and made music on his own.

As far as Marty's personal style, especially his jackets, Hilda says, "Marty always liked clothes. He knew what he liked. People talk about his long hair. He had it long all the time, even as a boy, he never wore it short."

Always outgoing and friendly, Marty talked to everybody. From the time he was a toddler, "Marty would speak to anybody he met on the street, it didn't matter who. He learned everybody's name, where they lived and their dog's name, first time around," Hilda says. He just liked people.

"In a small town, you know everybody and everybody knows you--at church, the grocery store, the cleaners," and Marty was comfortable wherever he was and whomever he was with.

This really hasn't changed much through the years. Hilda says that the outgoing, friendly, high-energy performer we all see "has the same tempo offstage as on. He's the same Marty, always sincere." Hilda remembers that when Marty was in the sixth grade, "he wrote this essay. I still have it in the lockbox. In it, he wrote about what he was going to do, right down to the songs he was going to sing, the kind of music he would make, the awards he was going to win, where he was going to live." Even then, he seemed to know his destiny.

"One summer there was a Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana and Marty's dad took him there to play his mandolin. Roland White heard him and was duly impressed by this boy. Roland was the mandolin player for Lester Flatt's band," Hilda recalls. He invited Marty to visit him and his wife in Nashville during a school break. While Marty was there, Lester asked him to come with the band to do a festival in Delaware. It was after that performance that Lester asked Marty, a 13-year old boy, to join his band.

As Hilda remembers it, "Marty started called home. Lester had him playing with them on the Grand Ole Opry. This put more fire into him, and we couldn't get him to come back home."

Hilda still gets butterflies when Marty is onstage. "I'm always watching. I know he's doing it and he is going to do it right, but I still get a little uptight watching him perform."

Marty, on the other hand, "doesn't get nervous at all." After all, he's grown up on that stage.

Excerpted from Country Music: Mom's Recipe for Success by Clare Bisceglia

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