Electric Barnyard Tour Sets Down In Tulare

The Merle Haggard and Marty Stuart Show has circus atmosphers

This appeared in the Fresno Bee - July 9, 2003

Like a proud father, Marty Stuart watched as a man walked through the gates of the Electric Barnyard tour Sunday night in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The man arrived early, carrying a lawn chair. He was the first person through the gate at the first show on the tour.

"That guy will probably never know how much I appreciate his business," Stuart said Monday, the pride still resonating in his voice.

He has reason to be proud. The unusual tour -- featuring Stuart and Merle Haggard on a traveling stage built specifically for the tour's 24 dates -- was Stuart's idea more than a year ago.

Sunday, it came to fruition. Thursday, it will come to Tulare. "It's like the circus coming to town," Stuart says. His traveling carnival of country is only one option for Thursday.

Dwight Yoakam takes a more traditional approach to things, performing at 8 p.m. at the Visalia Fox Theatre. Tickets cost $23-$53.

Yoakam, a 17-year country veteran who employed the "Bakersfield sound" of country all the way out in Nashville, will arrive without the electric pomp of Haggard and Stuart.

The Electric Barnyard Tour, on the other hand, is the circus that Stuart says it is. There are rides, booths and tents -- what circus would be complete without them?

It takes six trucks to move everything from city to city and the tour employs a 40-person crew -- many of whom worked independently to construct aspects of the tour, but never met each other until the tour began.

"The most amazing thing about it to me," Stuart says, "is I'd never laid eyes on it until [Sunday]. It's been planned and I've seen it on paper for almost a year now."

The idea for the tour came to Stuart in tiny Ringgold, Pa., in the spring of 2002. He looked out from his tour bus and saw members of the community selling baked goods, tractors on display and everybody from babies to bikers at the concert.

"This is America," he thought to himself and the gears in his head started turning.

Once he had the idea for the tour, he sat down with his booking agents and planned it. He wanted to hit the backroads, not the stadiums and arenas.

Then he called the person he knew would be best to headline the tour with him -- Haggard.

"If you're making an issue out of the backroads and the blue-collar segment of the community, Merle more than anybody is a poet to common man," Stuart says.

By Mike Osegueda

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