Gretchen Wilson, Future Hall Of Famer?

This appeared on - June 5, 2008

Gretchen Wilson appeared at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium early Thursday morning on the Late Night Jam benefit, where the event’s host predicted she’ll one day have a home in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Marty Stuart assembled and emceed the seventh annual Late Night Jam, which Gretchen had confessed just days earlier was creating some anxiety for her. Gretchen indicated the quality of the show’s previous six years and Marty’s musicianship made her nervous, an idea that Marty plays down.

"Maybe it’s the aura of the building and the setting," he said prior to the show, held at the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. "I still get nervous before I walk out there. We’re supposed to. But it’s an honor to have Gretchen, and I mean that. We’ve all seen a lot of people come and go by way of the charts in the last few years, but Gretchen Wilson to me is truly a member of the family of country music. She’s a Hall of Famer, I promise you. Regardless of what happens in the bumps in her career, she’s a big-picture artist, and she brings somethin' to the table, kinda like Loretta [Lynn] did."

Marty should know something about potential Hall of Famers. He’s been a board member of the Hall and played in the bands of two of its inductees: Johnny Cash and Lester Flatt.

He also knows how to put on a show. Marty and John Rich wrangled several surprise guests, including Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, who delivered "Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town"; songwriter Dallas Frazier, who served up such compositions as "If My Heart Had Windows" and "Fourteen Carat Mind"; songwriter Kostas, who performed "Ain’t That Lonely Yet" and "Blame It On Your Heart"; and former Johnny Cash drummer W.S. "Fluke" Holland, who joined Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives on "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Folsom Prison Blues."

Marty promised a diverse show, and delivered with such guests as Southern rock icon Charlie Daniels, folk-tinged singer Kathy Mattea, bluegrass act the SteelDrivers and new singer Trey Hensley, whose performance evoked the late Keith Whitley and early Merle Haggard. Marty kicked off the evening with "Bo Diddley," paying homage to the R&B innovator who died this week. Marty performed with many of the evening’s artists, joining Charlie on "Long Haired Country Boy," supporting Trey on a bristling version of "Soldier’s Joy," and teaming with Connie Smith to back Dallas’ rendition of "Elvira."

Last night’s Late Night Jam went very late, starting at 10 p.m. and running until after 2 a.m. An official CMA Music Festival event for the first time, the Jam sold out for only the second time in its history, raising money for MusiCARES, a program that aids musicians with health and financial issues.

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