Marty Stuart - Mr. Country Music

This appeared on Great American Country's website - July 2003

There are few performers in country music with a purer pedigree, deeper roots and greater experience than Marty Stuart. On the road by age 12 as part of legend Lester Flatt’s band, he learned early on from a master about country music, country fans and how to treat them.

“One of the things I did was collect money at the door of the tent. These men would hand me dollar bills that were still wet from the sweat of their day working in the fields. Lester pointed out how special that was to get these people’s hard-earned money for us to put on a show,” Marty recalls.

Later, he learned more about life and country music superstardom as a side-man for Johnny Cash, with some rowdier lessons, Marty confesses, he had to “unlearn.” In the mid ‘80s he began his own star trip and has been a unique contributor to the music and the lore of country as a true historian and keeper of the flame. It’s fitting then, some 20 years into his solo recording career, that he’d celebrate with a new album called simply, Country Music. He could’ve added, “from Mr. Country Music.”


For the last couple of years Marty feels he lost touch with his roots and career while he jumped into a series of “team projects” as he calls them: scoring films, writing songs for other artists’ albums, producing and recording and otherwise concentrating on everything but his own recording career. For that reason, when it was time for him to make music again, Stuart decided to go back to his roots where much of his outlook on life and music taste was formed.

"I went back home to Mississippi and just spent time out in the country, in the woods,” says Marty. “I kept the family farm there with the same pine trees, I could hear the same train whistles, see the same stars, and feel the same atmosphere that inspired me to love country music and play it when I was a kid, before I ever knew anything about doing it for a living.”

Growing up in Mississippi, other events helped drive Marty to a life in music.

“When I was a kid raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964, there was a civil rights killing that went down,” Marty says of his beginnings in life. “Three civil rights workers were murdered in my hometown, and my peaceful little existence as a child went upside down. There was a hate in the air down there. It wasn't a pleasant time to live in Mississippi. And when I really felt the power of music for the first time was on Saturday afternoon,” Marty remembers.

“Flatt and Scruggs had this TV show that came on out of Jackson, Mississippi. It was like my friendly country cousins would play happy country music, and as soon as they would come on TV, the air got lighter and when the show would go off the air, I missed them. Music made a difference in my life so much back then by way of that group. The first two records I got was a Flatt and Scruggs and a Johnny Cash record, and in truth, that's the only two jobs I had in my life, and so I've really been fortunate that way," Start recalls.

So, when Marty returned home last year to touch base, as he’s done in the past when he needed to feel grounded, Mississippi worked its magic for him again.

“It always does. One of the greatest things in my life has been having a place called home to go to. There were roots and a foundation in good times and in bad times. And in 30 years of road-dogging and traveling it’s just been a wonderful thing to have a place called home,” Marty says warmly.

Out of the new CD Marty lists the songs that most resonate with him and his life growing up in Mississippi.

“I think ‘Farmer’s Blues’ as much as any of them, “A Satisfied Mind” and even “Walls of a Prison,’ those are the kind of features that appear around me when I get down there it seems like,” Stuart says.

While Marty has his utopia back home in Mississippi, the first single, “If There Ain’t, There Ought’a Be,” sings about a utopia for others.

“I wish I’d written the single. It’s like Huck Finn meets Mark Twain, it’s truly about a country utopia, just a place where dreams come true, that magical place that doesn’t exist for a lot of us, but it sure is fun to think about it and wish about it.”


After his self-prescribed re-baptism in the gospel of deep South country music, Marty Stuart and his special band have recorded what stands as a milestone album, Country Music by Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives.

The Superlatives are some of Nashville’s greatest pickers, plus special guests. They include guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Lucinda Williams), drummer Harry Stinson (Steve Earle), and bassist, Brian Glenn. Others include legends like dobroist Josh Graves, and Earl Scruggs, plus a special guest performance with Merle Haggard on a tune written by Marty and his wife, Connie Smith, called, “Farmer’s Blues.” It was a song Connie had been saving for her own album.

“I had put out the word to everybody in town that Merle and me are gonna tour together this year. It would be a perfect opportunity to record a song to sing on tour,” explains Marty. After getting in a lot of Merle-esque tunes, and retreads, Connie stepped forward. “Connie gave me a wonderful gift by offering me back, ‘Farmer’s Blues.’”


Of course Haggard and Stuart are getting their chance to sing “Farmer’s Blues” on the recently launched Electric Barnyard Tour. It stars Marty and the Fabulous Superlatives, Merle Haggard and the Strangers, BR549, Connie Smith, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage and The Old Crow Medicine Show. It kicked off July 6th and runs through the end of August, and Marty says he’s having a ball.

“Oh, man, the music on this tour is just beyond description. It’s like five hours worth of textbook, train-ridin,’ wonderful past, present and future country music,” Marty enthuses. “The next morning after one of those concerts it’s almost like a dream to think about the music that went on the night before. It’s really special.”

Given Marty’s history and who he’s on tour with, some of his best moments on the road have been just watching the participants.

“(I love) seeing the heart and soul of country music come back into focus for me,” Marty tells us. “To see Merle Haggard sit at the edge of the stage and watch Connie Smith, to see Connie watch Merle, me and Connie watch Merle and jam with Merle and sit on the bench and tell stories and talk about the future of country music and the past of country music…it’s just been an absolutely state-of-the-art dream.”

Best part of the tour otherwise is touring with his wife. “It’s wonderful to have her out here, this is the first time we’ve ever toured together and we do ‘After the Fire is Gone.’”


"When I first put the band together last spring, I requested to the booking agent, 'Play me in small markets. We don't have any commercial heat to get out and run auditorium or coliseum circuit right now, so put me in small towns so we can learn and find our own way,'” Marty reveals.

“So, the more I played these small towns across America, the more I fell in love with the concept. Our presence brought a lot of people together at a time when the nation kinda needed some music in the back roads. Nobody was attending to our fans out there, it seemed like. So, I thought, 'Well, before I get out into the town, let's make an issue of the back roads.' So we put a tour together, and the first person I called was Merle, the ode to the common man. Talk to the blue collar folks out there. And the third act revolves around Rhonda Vincent or BR-549 or Connie Smith. Great night of country music."

Ultimately, what Marty Stuart is most proud of about his album called Country Music is that going back home to touch base with the place where he learned country music from some of its greatest pioneers, resulted in a CD that exalts that past, while remaining as fresh as 2003.

“I think we went back there to get the inspiration, but we didn’t keep it back there. You continually get the feeling that it is contemporary and accessible and sounds fresh, it sounds restive to me and comes from a deep place.”

Finally, Marty Stuart has become a deep well of country music and keeper of its history, while remaining near the spearhead of its future. That’s because he is deep, a soul cured in real country music and the lifestyle of real country people, experiences that he adorned with the glitter of his own youthful spirit and masterful music making abilities. He is Mr. Country Music to many…with a what you could then say is a self-titled new CD, Country Music, one that ranks up there with his best work yet.

By Neil Haislop

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