Marty Stuart Keeps The Faith

This appeared in Music City News - December 1989

"Roger Miller had a great line. He said 'Having talent is easy. Figuring out what to do with it is the real trick'," laughs MCA Records artist Marty Stuart with the air of someone who knows of what he speaks. And that he does. Though there has been little question of his talent, Stuart nevertheless has spent the last four years trying to get his country solo career on the right track.

After starting out his musical life professionally at the age of 13 playing guitar and mandolin with Lester Flatt, he then played in a succession of prestigious studio jobs--with the likes of Doc Watson, Bob Dylan and Billy Joel before joining up with longtime hero (and former father-in-law) Johnny Cash after Flatt's death in 1979. Stuart was an important part of Cash's live act for six years offering his stringed instrument expertise, as well as his innate musical advice.

By 1985, Stuart decided to pursue his longtime dream of solo stardom. An early half vocal/half instrumental LP in 1982, "Busy Bee Cafe" on Sugar Hill Records, garnered much attention and praise. By 1986, Stuart, along with Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Libby Hurley, Lewis Story and JoAnna Jacobs, was signed to CBS's Records new Horizon outing. This venture--an attempt to establish five new acts in one fell swoop, was not an overwhelming success. Besides, the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, none of the acts enjoyed much radio airplay.

Stuart's debut, "Marty Stuart," was released to critical praise, but the album failed to gain him the acceptance he had expected. After releasing a handful of singles that enjoyed lukewarm success, Stuart then spent a couple of extremely frustrating years in recording limbo until he hooked up with hot producer Tony Grown and MCA Records. It was an association Stuart had long hoped to make.

"I first saw Tony Brown when I was 12 years old," Stuart says, running a hand through his mane of black hair. "He was playing piano for the Oak Ridge Boys when they were singing gospel music. I'd been used to seeing traditional quartets with matching suits and here is this wild Tarzan out there and he was great. He made an impression on me."

From this collaboration came "Hillbilly Rock," an eclectic collection of music showcasing the singer/songwriter's unique blend of traditional country, bluegrass and rousing rockabilly or, as the ebullient Stuart describes it, "hillbilly music--with a thump." Two singles have been released--a remake of Cash's Cry, Cry, Cry and most recently Don't Leave Her Lonely Too Long. A video of Cry, Cry, Cry featuring appearances by longtime Cash drummer "Fluke" Holland and bassist extraordinaire Roy Huskey, Jr., was among the most aired on country video outlets.

Now with an album of which he is justifiably proud and a stable and growing legion of Marty Stuart fans, the singer maintains a positive and optimistic attitude toward life and career--one that he says kept him from losing heart during the down times in his career.

"I never quit believing. If you know you've got it and you are put on this earth to entertain, you never stop believing," enthuses Stuart. "There were some dark times when I stopped and thought 'when it is not happening on the outside, then there's always plenty of work to do on the inside' So I went to work on the inside of myself and started brightening that up.

"And there were some days my fingernails got a little shorter, but you know, I kept believing and I till believe. And I'm gonna keep believing."

By Shawn Williams

Return To Articles Return To Home Page