Marty Stuart Now Takes His Own Requests

This appeared in The FADER Magazine - April 13, 2006

At one point or another, every serious music addict makes a nostalgic claim about a record that they once “wore the grooves off of” or some similarly romanticized memory of how they got hooked. Well it might sound just as bullshit, but I swear I went to bed every single night in elementary school listening to my local country station’s call-in request show. It was called “Cryin’, Lovin’ Or Leavin’” and Marty Stuart sang the theme song. The DJ would return from commercial with an excerpt from Stuart’s bluesy chorus, then take calls saying, “Debbie from Duluth! Will you be cryin, lovin or leavin tonight?” Debbie would tell her sexy, violent, sappy or sexy-violent-sappy story, any of which would blow my 11 year-old mind, and then I’d pray for either Keith Whitley, Vince Gill or Travis Tritt, depending on whether I was cryin, lovin or leavin after my day at school.

“There used to be this old AM black station down in Alabama,” Marty Stuart remembers. “The DJ’s listeners would call in—a girl would say, ‘My man messed me up and he promised he would never do that again.’ Or guys would call in and say, ‘Man I broke up with my woman, it just tears me up, would you please play the Isley Brothers again?’ And the disc jockey would always say, like, ‘Man, you know, some people be cryin, some people be lovin, some people be leavin, but everybody be believin,’ and I just thought cryin, lovin or leavin was the coolest thing.” Stuart swears that he wrote his version of “Cryin’, Lovin’ or Leavin” while standing over a urinal during a stop at an Alabama radio station.

The song, of course, is but one forgotten step in a storied career. Marty Stuart first hit the road at the age of 12, playing mandolin with Lester Flatt, and later spent years playing guitar in Johnny Cash’s band. His own career as a bandleader took off in the ’80s. By now, of course, Stuart is well enough established that he no longer has to chase commercial country hits, and as a result, he’s freed himself up to record a flurry of style-specific records that have long been on his mind. He recently piggybacked three different records on top of each other over the course of just seven months: a country gospel record with slow-picked, reverb-and-tremelo-laden guitars, inspired multi-part harmonies and an explosive use of empty space called Souls' Chapel; a concept album about the Lakota tribe of Native Americans that he recorded with John Carter Cash at Cash Cabin called Badlands; and a set of bluegrass jams that rock as much as they hiccup called Live At The Ryman. They’re all fuckin great—especially Chapel and Ryman—so great, in fact, that if I had ’em on vinyl, I swear I’d be well on my way to wearing down their grooves.

By Will Welch

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