Marty Stuart Donates Flatt Guitar To Hall Of Fame

This appeared on Great American Country - February 14, 2008

Marty Stuart is country music's biggest pack rat, and yesterday, he gave some of his most prized possessions to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Marty and his wife, Connie Smith, parted with some of their personal possessions, including the acetate she was given immediately after recording her first hit, "Once A Day" and the black costume that Marty wore for the cover of his album The Pilgrim.

The centerpiece of the donation was a guitar owned by the late Lester Flatt, who was Marty's first employer when he moved to Nashville as a teenager. Marty referred to it as "the chief's guitar" and remembered that when he got a chance to play it as a kid, the experience made him cry.

"This is the guitar that I used to watch every Saturday afternoon sittin' next to my daddy," Marty explained. "In the midst of racial hate in 1964, Philadelphia, Mississippi, when the eye of the entire world was lookin' at us and our town, I felt love and I felt power when I watched Lester & Earl [Scruggs' TV] show, Porter [Wagoner]'s show. It's the first time I felt the pure power of music, so I knew this guitar represented it."

The instrument will end up in an exhibit titled Precious Jewels alongside the guitar of the Carter Family's Maybelle Carter and the mandolin of bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.

Marty also showed pictures of some of the other items he's donating to the Hall: a Johnny Cash duster and "Man In Brown briefcase," as Marty called it; and the suitcase and overcoat that Hank Williams had in his possession the night he died in the back seat of a Cadillac.

In addition to the donations, Marty and Connie provided a significant amount of music. Marty was joined by Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill for a mandolin trio. Connie closed out the ceremony with a performance of the Carter Family's "The Storms Are On The Ocean," backed by Ricky, Vince, Earl Scruggs and Marty, who played Lester's guitar.

"I personally know how much he loves some of these things," Connie said. "A gift is really when you give something you love, that you treasure, and Marty is the best at doing that."

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