Marty Stuart: Carries On The History Of Country Music

This article appeared in Cleveland Country Magazine - September 1993

Unless you've been under a rock for the last two years, you know that country music is so hot that it's cool again. Once the brunt of jokes, country fans are now slick city dwellers and suburbanites.

But that's not why Marty Stuart is so excited about his profession. For Stuart, country music is a wide-open field, so to speak. There is such a range of choices for country fans from George Jones, Bill Monroe, Roy Acuff to the other hand, the new country breed of Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Trisha Yearwood, etc.

Having such a wide range of choice is obviously a good sign of growth for the country genre. And that's especially good for Stuart because the broader country music gets, the more he feels at home in it.

A non-traditional type of country entertainer, Stuart has no truck, no big hat, no pressed-jean-cowboy look. Instead he portrays proudly his "hillbilly hair" and proclaims of being "country to the bone." "I know what real country music is because I'm a country historian by hobby," he said. "I've been a country fan since I was breathing. A lot of this stuff that they're passing off as No. 1 records, No. 2 and No. 3 records that are selling 50 bajillion records, it ain't a bit country. But hey, if they want to call it country, if it looks good for our industry, I'm willing. Let's go."

Stuart's sense of humor spills over from the country pop crowd a bit. For instance, calling his tour of last year with Travis Tritt the "No Hats Tour." "See, the industry started referring to acts as a hat-act or a non-hat act," he said, regarding the way Nashville categorizes country entertainment. "That's when me and Travis got to talking. Travis says, 'Hell, we're a hair act. We can't get a hat over our hair.' So we had a whiskey, and started working it over. My manager suggested that we just should do a tour called "The No Hats Tour" because there wasn't anything out there like that.

Stuart incorporates a lot of history into his act. You'll hear songs by Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and other country forefathers that forged the ground for Stuart. "And you know, most kids think they're brand new songs. They like it. and they don't even know why. That's the beauty of it." Stuart is a big believer of tradition. Having been brought up on the classics--Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs--he knows the music that serves as modern country's foundations. And he understands just how that music remains important today.

"The music we're making today is great," he said. "It's better, technically, and we're prettier than those guys in a lot of cases. But those records still haven't been beaten. They're just blueprints, you know?" Stuart pays tribute to his roots in "Me & Hank & Jumpin' Jack Flash," the opening cut from his most recent album, This One's Gonna Hurt You. In the song, he dreams that he's gone up to hillbilly heaven, where he meets one of his idols, Hank Williams.

"I miss Hank," he said. "I really wish I could sit down and talk to him as a songwriter. It intrigues me that he wrote all those songs before he was 30 years old. I don't stand at the edge of the town beating the drum, expecting his Cadillac to pull up any minute now. That's over and done with. But Hank had a great spirit about him." And Stuart does too.

Article written by Jake O'Kane

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