Marty Stuart Says He's A Hillbilly Singer--And Proud Of It

This appeared in The Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, WV) - June 15, 1994

Marty Stuart calls himself a hillbilly. Proudly. It's an offensive word to many, conjuring up images of bare feet, a few missing teeth, and soiled overalls.

Stuart shares no such perception. He refers to himself as a hillbilly singer. He named one of his albums "Hillbilly Rock." The 35-year-old singer says his whole lifestyle is hillbilly. "I promote the phrase," he said. "I stand on it. It gives us uniqueness."

Hillbilly or not, Stuart has become one of country music's rising stars. He's so popular that while president, George Bush--the nation's No. 1 country fan--requested that "Hillbilly Rock" be piped aboard Air Force One. "We sent him tapes and T-shirts and didn't charge him any tax," Stuart said.

With that bargain out of the way, Stuart sat down in his tour bus recently outside a recording studio and reflected on his life and career. He laughs easily and often, even at himself.

He recounted how country music monopolized all but the first four years of his existence. "It was part of my childhood," he said as he fingered a coffee cup. "I still have country music records I bought as a child."

He grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he learned to play the mandolin. Stuart was so good that Lester Flatt, one of the greatest bluegrass stars ever, invited him to join his band when Stuart was just 13. A cute kid would be good for business. And this dynamo played well.

Stuart eagerly signed on, living with other band members in Nashville until his parents relocated to the city. "I learned to play poker from the older band member," Stuart recalled.

After Flatt died, Stuart spent six years touring and recording with country king Johnny Cash in the early 1980s. His portfolio boasts of other famous bosses, too. He did studio or concert work with Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Randy Travis among others.

"Everybody I ever worked with has been a legend or a stylist," Stuart said.

The Associated Press

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