Marty Stuart Tells Of A Life On The Road

This appeared on - February 13, 2006

The life of an entertainer is the only life Marty Stuart has ever known. The singer, songwriter, stringed instrument virtuoso, author, photographer and country music historian first hit the road at age 13.

Lester Flatt -- one half of the legendary duo, Flatt & Scruggs -- heard the young prodigy play at a bluegrass festival and offered him a job as rhythm guitarist in his band, Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass.

Three decades, four Grammys and several million albums later, Stuart is still traveling down that road. Stuart has made lasting music as a front man and in collaboration with virtually every major roots music figure of his era and he shares some of his amazing tales on Great American Country's "GAC Classic," on Wednesday, February 22, at 10 a.m. (ET).

"From the first time I played with Lester Flatt, I sensed an extreme amount of history around me," Stuart said. It's no surprise, then, that Stuart has been a collector of country music memorabilia for as long as he can remember. "The first things I acquired were guitars and costumes," he said. "Nobody in Nashville was really paying attention to the old Nudie suits; people basically were ashamed of that image and they were being sold and pawned."

Today the 47-year-old owns the largest acknowledged private collection of music memorabilia with more than 20,000 different items. In addition to the beautifully ornate costumes and stringed instruments, Stuart has handwritten manuscripts of Hank Williams' songs, the last boots ever worn by Patsy Cline and the first black stage outfit worn in the 50's by his former father-in-law, the late Johnny Cash.

Stuart's preservation efforts also included six terms as president of the board of directors of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He's written about music and culture for publications like the Oxford American and has exhibited his photographs -- including portraits of friends Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard -- in various U.S. cities.

Stuart is also an active member of the Grand Ole Opry, joining that revered roster in 1992, twenty years after his teenage debut. He is married to fellow Opry member and 60's hit-maker Connie Smith.

As a producer and arranger Stuart has worked on recorded projects by Billy Bob Thornton, the Sullivans and the film score for the movie All The Pretty Horses (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination).

The Mississippi-born artist recently released Souls' Chapel, a collection of classic and original spirituals and will soon release his second collection of photograpy, a follow-up to Pilgrims: Sinners, Saints & Prophets.

By Ronna Rubin

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