Stuart To Play Summer Hurrah

The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnny Hiland also to play Crowtown CountryFest

This appeared in the Coshocton Tribune - August 22, 2013

Country music star Marty Stuart hasn’t played in Coshocton before, but he knows the area and what to expect from the fans.

When starting out as a solo artist, he thought Texas would be a home base for him, but he found fans in Ohio and Pennsylvania embraced him the most, he said.

“In the formative days of my solo career, Ohio was a big part of it,” he said. “Solid people, and they get country music. They’re lifers. Once they sign on with you, I’ve found those fans stick with you for a lifetime.”

Stuart is headlining the Crowtown Country Fest on Saturday at the Coshocton Airport Amphitheater. Also featured will be longtime country session musician and rising solo performer Johnny Hiland and the Kentucky Headhunters. Their 1989 debut album, Pickin’ on Nashville, won several awards and featured the hits “Dumas Walker” and “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine.”

“If you put us together with the Headhunters, you have some of the nation’s finest knuckleheads,” Stuart said with a laugh. “They’re like family. Those guys are my Kentucky cousins.”

The Headhunters were having their biggest success around the same time Stuart was, but his musical career has been long and varied. At age 10, he fronted his first band. At 14, he was playing mandolin for bluegrass legend Lester Flatt in the Nashville Grass. At 22, he started playing guitar for music icon Johnny Cash. At 31, he signed with MCA Records and released his breakthrough album, Hillbilly Rock.

Now 54, Stuart continues to record and tour. He promises fans this Saturday will hear hits they know like “Hillbilly Rock,” “Tempted,” “Little Things” and “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time).”

“We’re getting toward the end of the summer and people are giving it one last hurrah for the summer, so we can hopefully help them do that,” Stuart said. “If you want to have the last musical victory lap of summer, come see us.”

In 2008, he launched The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV. The weekly hour-long variety series has become a bastion of traditional country music and the highest-rated show on the network. It features current stars like Keith Urban, crossover performers such as Sheryl Crow and legends like Merle Haggard. The Headhunters were on this past season, as well.

“About six or seven years ago I had a hard talk with myself. I said, ‘What you love most is traditional country music, so why not go challenge it, defend it, throw a lasso around the culture and shore it up?’” he said. “It gave the traditional country fan hope, because they thought that type of music was gone for good.”

Stuart said he’s felt the affect of the series with his live show attendance and album sales. Yet, the most important thing is to make sure traditional country has a future, and that means attracting new artists and younger fans, which he’s also seen.

“I’ve really enjoyed finding a younger audience that is looking for authenticity that they might not find in the commercial end of country music,” he said. “They dig a little deeper and they find people they’ve never heard of or only read about, or new acts coming through. It gives them hope they can play this type of country music and make a living at it.”

By Leonard Hayhurst

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