Marty Stuart To Be Honored With Country Music Trail Marker In Philadelphia

This appeared on MS Digital Daily - July 22, 2010

On Sunday, July 25, 2010, country legend Marty Stuart will be honored with the second Mississippi Country Music Trail marker at a ceremony in his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. The event will take place at the Neshoba County Fairgrounds located at 16800 Highway 21 South at 2:00 p.m. Stuart along with local and state officials will be on hand for the event.

"Marty Stuart is a true ambassador for Mississippi bringing country music and hospitality to the world," Governor Haley Barbour said. "It is only fitting that he receives one of the first markers on the Mississippi Country Music Trail. From the time he left his native Neshoba County at the age of 12 to perform with legends such as Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, through his years with Johnny Cash and throughout other collaborations and his solo work, Marty has always been a Mississippian, heart and soul. He's been a good friend to the state, and I'm proud to have the state thank him in this way."

From his boyhood days performing in Mississippi, Marty Stuart displayed singular zest for every flavor of country music. Beginning as a teenage mandolin player with Lester Flatt, he became an inimitable Grand Ole Opry star, "hillbilly rock" hit maker, accomplished songwriter, multi-instrumentalist bandleader and country artifact collector. With a musical missionary's zeal and a bold showman's style, Stuart committed himself both to preserving country's history and contributing to its future.

Born in Philadelphia on September 30, 1958, (John) Marty Stuart was at age ten fronting the Musical Rangers, a honky tonk guitar band that sometimes played on the square in Philadelphia. Stuart even offered the local press a headline: "Local boy sings country songs in a Beatles society." Later, as an established star, Stuart often noted that the country, rock, gospel, blues and Choctaw musical streams that converged in Neshoba County formed a rich pool of inspiration from which his eclectic repertoire would always be drawn.

After his musical debut touring with the Sullivan Family Gospel Singers, Stuart was invited to join the legendary Lester Flatt's traditional bluegrass band, the Nashville Grass. Stuart left for Nashville on Labor Day 1972, not quite fourteen years old, and was Flatt's boy wonder mandolin player until Flatt's death in 1979. Stints working with two other masters-fiddler Vassar Clements and guitar picker/vocalist Doc Watson-followed, and from 1980-1985, Stuart was the electric guitar-slinger in Johnny Cash's hot back-up band.

An award-winning instrumentalist, a distinctive country vocalist and a songwriter who could spin contemporary tales in traditional country modes, Stuart had two solo albums out by the late 1980s, the first saluting the Busy Bee Café that once operated in Philadelphia. He then emerged as a uniquely flamboyant star in country's generally restrained, roots-minded "New Traditionalist" movement. His string of hits with the major MCA label included: "Tempted," "Now That's Country," "Little Things," hit duets with Travis Tritt ("Whiskey Ain't Workin'" and "This One's Gonna Hurt You"), and the smash that named his exciting new party sound, "Hillbilly Rock."

He was inducted as a Grand Ole Opry cast member in 1992. As his career matured, on the Opry stage and beyond, Marty Stuart actively upheld country music's history and traditions while easing it into a new century. "Traditional country music is the empowering force in our genre," he said. "It's my legacy; it's who I am. A lot of what I do is about not letting something great slip away." In keeping with that goal, Stuart produced albums for country legends Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner, headed a versatile country touring band and featured traditional country on television and radio series. He recorded bluegrass, honky tonk, gospel and ambitious original albums while avidly collecting and publicly displaying precious country music memorabilia and publishing a collection of his photographic portraits of country legends. Stuart's regular efforts to spotlight Mississippi culture included early support for establishing the Mississippi Country Music Trail.

Stuart's travelling collection of personal celebrity memorabilia, Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey, is now on exhibit in Meridian at the MSU Riley Center through September 18, 2010.

Much like the Mississippi Blues Trail, which now garners over 100 markers, the Mississippi Country Music Trail celebrates Mississippi's rich heritage of country music legends and chart toppers. The trail will feature a variety of country music artists, including Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Jerry Clower, Faith Hill, Paul Overstreet and others to comprise the first 30 markers across the state.

By Jennifer Spann

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