Grammy® Winner Hosts Annual Showcase For MusiCares

This appeared on - July 24, 2014

Marty Stuart, a five-time GRAMMY®-winning country music singer/songwriter, has hosted his Late Night Jam at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee since 2001. A country music throwndown, hillbilly-homecoming rave-up, this variety show benefits MusiCares and gives artists of all ages and fame a chance onstage. We recently sat down with Stuart to learn more about this annual event.

MusiCares: You've been a longtime supporter of MusiCares; can you describe why you feel so strongly about MusiCares?

Marty Stuart: Well, the stories come from our time working together with MusiCares. One experience is when the flood hit Nashville in 2010. I cannot think of a greater example of a natural disaster, wiping so many people out — whether it's no rent due to lost gigs, losing instruments, jobs, buildings, or homes. I know for a fact that MusiCares was at the forefront of providing vital and immediate help to people in our industry who needed assistance. You can't ask for a greater example than that.

MC: How have you seen MusiCares help those in need?

MS: Everybody thinks that since we sing, have records and are on TV, that everybody has a lot of money. There was an old country music hero of mine [who] gave and gave during the good years of his life. He came off the road, got old and diabetes set in. He lost a leg and that was unthinkable, but he weathered through. He began receiving rehab and then the unimaginable happened: he lost the other leg. After another round of hell, he finally got home and the first round of prescriptions was $4,500. I remember calling you and, in less than a week, he had his medicine.

Another thing that happens from time to time is drugs and alcohol take over and that's a hell that I understand. It was a part of my life for a long time. Sometimes we get too close to the fire and we don’t know how to get out and we have to go to the side and ask for help. I know so many instances when MusiCares has been that entity that stepped up and confidentially took care of people and their situations. The bottom line [is], MusiCares saves lives.

MC: What inspired you to create the Late Night Jam?

MS: The great truth of the matter is, CMA Week, which used to be Fan Fair, the first one I was ever a part of was in 1973. When the show moved, things changed. At the time when I started my band, the Fabulous Superlatives, we didn't have a record deal for a brief period of time, which meant we couldn't play the big stage. I thought, “Well, I've been a part of this since 1973 and I don't want to be relegated to a lesser stage because I don't have a hit at the moment,” so I thought, “We have to go beyond this.” So, Tony Conway helped me approach the Ryman Auditorium and we set up the first Late Night Jam 13 years ago.

MC: To date, through the Late Night Jam, you've raised more than $200,000 for MusiCares to support our emergency financial assistance and addiction recovery programs. How does that make you feel?

MS: It makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing. As entertainers and creative people, we are so blessed and we have so many gifts at our disposal and to be able to give a little part of that back is the bottom line.

I was pumping gas recently and some guy came up and shook my hand — he knew I hosted the Late Night Jam annually. He said to me, "MusiCares saved my life and I thank you for all you do for them." I replied, "That's what we do and it's what we are supposed to do." So, doesn't that say it all right there? It's like the old mission — if you've helped one soul, it's been worth the whole journey.

MC: Who has performed at the Late Night Jam?

MS: I look back at the guest list and it's pretty staggering, the people who have come to that show — LeAnn Rimes, Connie Smith, the Superlatives, Travis Tritt, and Keith Urban … oh … I know so many but I can't remember them all. It's always been a show that has welcomed everyone from baby acts to legends — people who probably wouldn't be invited anywhere anymore. When Keith Urban was a baby act, we asked him to perform. Eric Church came by when he was a baby act.

MC: How many years have you been doing this to benefit MusiCares?

MS: Thirteen years.

MC: What would you have done if it hadn't been music?

MS: Well, I made the statement that I wanted to be a pharmacist, which I pretty much was in the ’80s and early ’90s [laughs]. Somebody read that and the University of Mississippi gave me an honorary degree as a pharmacist a couple of years ago.

Actually, I really think I would have been an architect. I see architecture in everything I do, whether it's making a record, building a house or design. There is design in everything I do and I love architecture. It all amounts to music to me.

MC: What's the first song you remember learning to sing or play?

MS: It was a gospel song called "Not My Will [But] Thine Be Done." I remember standing on the piano stool next to my mom and playing that song. My mom played the piano at church. So many kids from the South got their start at the church because it was the most natural place to play. That's the one I remember the most.

MC: What's the song that stays in your mind from your high school prom?

MS: Well, I didn't graduate. I dropped out of school in the ninth grade to go on the road with Lester Flatt, but I consider myself a "road scholar" so I got my education. But had I had a prom, the song probably would have been [Glen Campbell’s] "Wichita Lineman."

MC: What music are you listening to now?  What's on your iPhone or iPod?

MS: It's pretty deep and dark and spidery in my case. Someone just sent me some home recordings from a fella named Ervin T. Rouse. Ervin T. Rouse was an obscure figure who wrote the song "Orange Blossom Special." He and his brother, Gordon, used to busk for hat money up and down the eastern seaboard. They were real characters in the Everglades of Florida. So, if you want to know how dark, cantankerous and spidery everything is in my world, I listen to the home recordings of the Rouse brothers. I'm probably the only one on my street doing that right now, but it touches my heart. It's like listening to the old testament of country music speak. I find inspiration in that.

MC: What would be your dream concert? Artists and venues?

MS: Dead or alive? It would be nice to play the Late Night Jam with Hank Williams and have the Drifting Cowboys drop by. It'd be nice to see John and Waylon come back, and while we are dreaming, I've never met Norah Jones. I've always thought she was an incredible artist and I love her integrity as an artist.  I also love the Old Crow Medicine Show. Wouldn't that be a knucklehead night of music?

MC: What's the most innovative or unusual thing you've done in your musical career?

MS: Played traditional country music in the 21st century in Nashville.

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