For Stuart, Singing Just Part Of The Picture

This appeared on - February 13, 2006

Marty Stuart is a successful country music singer, multi-instrumentalist, scholar of the music's history and was once Johnny Cash's son-in-law and a member of his band.

But there's more. He's an avid photographer and a lover of the arts who visits museums, including the Huntsville Museum of Art.

"I loved the Huntsville museum," Stuart said. "For a long time, nobody would give the 'cotton patch' museums in the smaller towns good exhibits.

"For a long time, it was like people in the museum curatorial business thought nobody in these places was interested in art. I'm glad to see that is changing.'

A book of Stuart's photographs of country music and rock legends, called "Pilgrims," reveals candid moments behind the scenes with familiar performers.

"I never claimed to be a great photographic technician. My pictures are snapshots. I got that from my mother, who had a great sense of timing on when to pull the trigger," said Stuart, who as a child began to play in bluegrass legend Lester Flatt's band.

"I realized I had history around me every day. So I started carrying a camera everywhere."

One might think Stuart would have seen the recent Cash biopic "Walk the Line," but one would be wrong. "My cute and cuddly answer is that I was in the real one and I don't have to see it," Stuart said. "Actually, it will be easier for me to see when the heat dies down."

He did offer one thought about it: "Back in the 1980s when I was in Johnny Cash's band, I'd sit around with the drummer, W.S. 'Fluke' Holland, and talk about John. We'd say you can find a guy who looks like Elvis and four guys who look like the Beatles, but you can't find anybody who looks like Johnny Cash."

Another person portrayed in the movie, Jerry Lee Lewis, known as "the Killer," has been close to Stuart for years. In fact, Stuart calls him "Uncle Gerald."

"I figured Jerry Lee would be the first to go. God has proved us wrong again," Stuart said. "Jerry is an unrepentant genius, and he is one of the best things that has ever happened to American music."

Stuart, 47, owns what must be the world's largest collection of Hank Williams Sr. memorabilia, ranging from cars to razors. "My stuff is in my warehouse now, being reappraised and prepared for going out on tour in the spring of 2008," he said.

His "divinely inspired" band, the Fabulous Superlatives, is made up of Kenny Vaughn, Harry Stinson and Brian Glenn. Their CD, Live at the Ryman, was released this month.

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