Marty Stuart's Camera Captures Country's Finest

This appeared in Country Weekly - September 29, 1998

You've heard Marty Stuart's musical skills in his many hits. Now you can see another side talent in his photographs. for years, Marty's hobby has been capturing images of his favorite subjects--country music stars. His first was Connie Smith, the woman he later marred. He took the shot at a local fair. There have been more of her since--but not as many as Marty would like.

This month, Marty's photos are on public display for the first time. It's part of an exhibit also honoring the work of noted Life photojournalist Ed Clark at The Arts Company's Avant Garage in Nashville.

"Ed Clark is a master photographer of our times," Marty says. "I'm like the family member who shows up at a get-together with a camera and I'm the only one who thought to bring the camera! If you can get the dang thing in focus, you've go something cool."

This Country Weekly exclusive features some of Marty's favorite photos--all titled by him--and the stories behind them.

Dolly Parton and George Jones
Masters of Emotion (1994)

"This was taken during the making of the George Jones' album, The Bradley Barn Sessions," Marty says. "It was the week of the biggest blizzard in Nashville, when all the power went out. There was nothing to do except hang out at Bradley's Barn and sing with George. Just kept my camera by the amplifier. Dolly came in and the picture's just the two of them working it out. I thought, 'Here's two people who really understand taking our hearts and juggling them around.' They can do that. God gave 'em that gift. That's why it's called Masters of Emotion."

Loretta Lynn
Blue Kentucky Girl (1994)

"Loretta is just like a little mountain butterfly that just flies around all the flowers," Marty says. "She's one of the purest people I've ever met. The title of this is named after one of her songs. I just saw her backstage one night at some TV show. She just looked like such a precious little mountain girl. She had her head down and she was reading something. I just happened to snap it. It's a little blurry and out of focus, but it still rings through. There's that little girl quality about her that I really love."

Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
"No dear, not Milli Vanilli--it's Waylon and Willie" (1983)

"Jessi Colter and June Carter held a sobriety party for Waylon and Johnny," Marty recalls. "It was when they both decided to straighten up and clean up and act right and be good examples for the rest of us hillbillies. About two weeks into their sobriety, they had this great party at Waylon's house. It was a '50s theme, so everybody dressed up to fit right in, except Willie. He came in his hat and pigtails. Willie had previously cut his pigtails off but I think he gave 'em to Waylon as a present that night."

Hank Williams Jr. and Katie
Baby, your grandpa was a man named Hank Williams (1993)

"Hank Sr.'s sister Irene was a friend," Marty explains. "When she passed away, I was called to be a pallbearer at her funeral in Montgomery. They buried her next to Hank. After the service was over, I looked up and Hank Jr. had his little girl Katie up in his arms. He had his hand on his Daddy's tombstone and I overheard him say, 'Honey, your grandpa was a man named Hank Williams.' Whoa! Wham! That's some soulful stuff."

Tammy Wynette
Angel in Waiting (1994)

"This was also taken during the making of George Jones' album The Bradley Barn Sessions," Marty recalls of the star-studded duet record. "Everybody had been giving it their best shot. Vince and George, Alan and George, Ricky Skaggs and George, Trisha and George--all sounded great. Keith Richards and George were a hoot. I had a ball with him, Travis Tritt had a ball with him. But when Tammy came in, it was like, 'Things are different now.' It was like the queen had arrived. You could tell both camps were a little nervous, but the music made everything OK. They did 'Golden Ring' and when they got through, everybody went 'Whew!' It was amazing."

Merle Haggard
I pledge allegiance to the HAG of the United States of America (1998)

"I took this shot of Haggard in Fort Worth, Texas. We were recording the song 'Same Old Train' for the Tribute to Tradition album,"Marty explains. "He was wide open that day; he was totally on. We hung out and told stories and he sang his face off. As time goes on, I find that Merle is one of the most important figures that we'll ever have in American music for so many reasons. I find myself admiring him and cherishing him more every day. At one point that day I said, 'I wanna take some pictures.' Hag is real guarded sometimes. This shot is kind of like a real, unguarded Hag."

Connie Smith
She sings and the sound of her voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing (1995)

"This was back when we were making her latest record," Marty says. "Connie's one of the prettiest people I've ever seen through the lens of a camera and she hates to have her picture made. Stopping her long enough to get a shot is like catching a fly! I've always said that Connie Smith is a microphone's best friend. She was uncomfortable and fidgety, and I said, 'Here, hold onto this old microphone.' The minute I did.....that's just Connie. Any hour of the day or night, she's a ball of fire. There's a wonderful spirit there. You can take pictures of Connie while she's sleeping and there's that same ball of fire."

Johnny Cash
Rocket fuel, hairspray, the same three chords and one more town (1982)

"It was one of those endless tours. You could tell he'd been there 5,000 times before," says Marty. "Drag that long black coat out, put it on one more time and go out and be the Man in Black for everybody. So that's him, going from being John R. Cash transforming himself into Johnny Cash. It happens in three licks--you squirt your hair, put a black coat on and you are the Man In Black. It's like Clark Kent."

Bill Monroe
The Chicken Reel (1996)

"I thought Bill Monroe, after all these years, won't want to stand around and let me take his picture," Marty recalls. "What'll spur him on? A woman! So I took Connie, 'cause I knew he'd play to her like an audience. He got all dressed up in his suit and we spent an entire afternoon taking pictures and singing songs together. His limo was parked in a barn. I wanted to back it out of the shed, park it in front of the log house. Well, it wouldn't start. I thought, 'Why don't we put him in front of the limo?' I noticed that everywhere he want on that farm, the animals followed him. So I got some chicken feed and spread it out. The chickens started hanging out around him, and he started playing music to them. That was the last photo session he ever did and my last real day of hanging out with him. That was a precious day."

Interview by Janet E. Williams
Photographs taken by Marty Stuart

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