Marty Stuart's Wonderful Life To Include Stop In Augusta

This appeared in the Augusta Chronicle - September 7, 2011

Next year, Marty Stuart will celebrate his 40th anniversary as a recording artist, and he’s planning on doing what he loves: make another album.

“Oh, yes, I plan on doing a 40th anniversary album,” Stuart said in a call last week. “And I’m going to begin working on my next one the last week of this month. It’s going to be called Nashville, Volume I.”

His current album for Sugar Hill Records, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, has been getting rave reviews.

The Grand Ole Opry star and his band, Fabulous Superlatives, will be doing some songs from that CD when they kick off the 2011-12 Southern Soul & Song series at 7:30 p.m. September 16 at the Imperial Theatre.

Tickets for the event, sponsored by the Morris Museum of Art and the Imperial, are $24 for downstairs seats and $19 and $13 for balcony seats. Call (706) 722-8341 or buy online at

Fans also can be the first to buy copies of a Sugar Hill Records album simply titled V by Stuart’s band member Kenny Vaughan. The CD is being released only three days before the Imperial show.

Stuart’s first album experience came in the summer of 1972, when the Philadelphia, Mississippi native was 12 years old and playing with an Alabama-based bluegrass-gospel group called The Sullivan Family.

“It was recorded in the country,” Stuart related. “Grover Willis was this entrepreneur in Philadelphia who loved gospel music.

“He had this little country store where he operated three catfish ponds on one side of a levee and a little music hall on the other side. The Sullivans recorded their album in this little lakeside auditorium. I think it was just called The Sullivans Live.”

That same year, over Labor Day weekend, Stuart went with his friend Roland White to a bluegrass festival where White would be playing mandolin in Grand Ole Opry star Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass band.

Flatt, previously half of the legendary duo Flatt & Scruggs, heard Stuart playing on his tour bus with White and soon afterward hired the then-13-year-old as a guitarist for the Nashville Grass. Flatt worked it out with Stuart’s parents to have Stuart live with him and his wife.

“It was this Labor Day weekend 39 years ago,” Stuart recalled on the phone. “I had to stop and count that up on my fingers. I lived with Flatt from the spring of 1973 to the fall of 1974, when my mom, dad and sister moved to the Nashville area, and I moved in with them.”

The generous offer from Flatt changed Stuart’s life. White left the Nashville Grass in 1973 to form a band with his brother, Clarence, former lead guitarist of the country rock band The Byrds. That led to Stuart’s becoming Flatt’s mandolin player.

Over the next six years, Stuart would record with Nashville Grass on the vinyl albums that Flatt recorded in Nashville, Tennessee studios, including his first all-gospel album, Flatt Gospel, in 1975, for which yours truly wrote the backside cover notes.

In 1978, still a member of The Nashville Grass, then 19-year-old Stuart recorded his first album as lead vocalist and featured artist. It was called With A Little Help From My Friends and was named after Stuart’s version of The Beatles’ hit single.

“Slim Richey was another entrepreneur who was a visionary and an eccentric character,” Stuart added. “He liked jazz and swing music and had this little records label out of Texas called Ridge Runner Records.

“He saw something in me and thought Lester would let me sell copies of the album at his merchandise table at shows. I recorded it at the House of Cash (studios and offices of Johnny Cash) in Hendersonville (outside Nashville). I can still see glimpses in that album of what I’m doing now.”

The album was a wonderful mix of country, gospel, bluegrass and a little rock and was re-released in 1992 under the title Marty Stuart: The Slim Richey Sessions.

It remains a favorite of Stuart’s long-time fans and set the stage for his highly-acclaimed Busy Bee Café album on the Sugar Hill Records label released in 1982.

Stuart would go on to record and produce best-selling albums for himself and for others, including fellow Opry star Connie Smith, who has been Stuart’s wife since 1997.

Her own recently released Sugar Hill Records CD, Long Line of Heartaches, has been receiving some great reviews; amazing since it is her first album in 13 years and only her second since 1978.

“I put her back being Connie Smith,” Stuart said of his production work. “It’s a hard-core, unapologetic return to basic country music. It sounds like Connie Smith’s 52 great albums of the past. It has heavy steel guitar and great country songs.”

As if producing his new album and his wife’s new album and touring often and doing Grand Ole Opry shows are not enough, Stuart is working on two photography books.

“One is a study of the Badlands that I’ve been doing on the Lakota people in South Dakota,” said Stuart, widely known as an excellent photographer.

“The other book is of photos taken by my mother, one of the greatest Southern photographers in the free world, and it’s being published by the University of North Carolina.”

All in all as Stuart gets ready to turn 53 on September 30, he says life is pretty great.

“I feel that I’m at the dead center of my destiny,” he said. “I’ve got the best band I’ve had in my life, and I don’t have to pander anymore to stuff that I don’t believe in.

“I follow my heart. It’s that simple. I love my life with Connie, and my mom, dad and sister are still alive, and when Christmas rolls around, the chairs are still full. It’s a wonderful life.”

By Don Rhodes

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