Country Roots Run Deep For Up-and-Coming Marty Stuart

This appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal - February 9, 1993

It's been one hell of a bus ride for Marty Stuart. The pompadoured singer is at last reaping the rewards of a lifetime spent in country music. His album, "This One's Gonna Hurt You" was hailed by many critics as one of the best records of 1992 and recently went gold.

His two duets with Mariettan Travis Tritt, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " and "This One's Gonna Hurt You," have been hits. "Whiskey" reached No. 1, won a CMA award as Vocal Event of the Year and has just been nominated for a Grammy award.

But he earned his highest honor in November when he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. "I felt like the prodigal son coming home," he said. The 34-year-old Stuart's first appearance at the Opry came at the famed Ryman Auditorium in 1972. He was 13 and a member of Lester Flatt's band.

Stuart, who was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi was introduced to Flatt by mandolin player Roland White. White invited Stuart to tag along with the band on a weekend gig. Stuart, who had already played with The Sullivan Family gospel group, didn't leave the band until Flatt's death in 1979. "A weekend bus ride turned into a job," he said.

He still travels by bus. But not just any bus. This one, a custom Silver Eagle, once belonged to Ernest Tubb and is sort of a country music museum on wheels. It carries some of Stuart's collection of vintage stage suits and instruments. "It's the coolest bus in town," Stuart said in a recent phone interview.

Between leaving Flatt's band and his current success, Stuart was a member of his one-time father-in-law Johnny Cash's band for six years, did session work, then tried to forge a solo career. He signed a deal with Columbia that resulted in two records and one heartache. He was dropped by the label after "Marty Stuart" and "Let There Be Country" failed to find much of an audience.

"I looked up and there were buzzards circling my career," he once said. Through frustrated, Stuart said he never allowed himself to become disappointed. "I'll tell you why," he said. "Country music has fed me now for 21 years. I've been successful at a whole lot of levels in country music and I know that when I started my solo stuff, I had some refining to do."

The outcome of that process became apparent soon after Stuart signed with MCA in 1988. He scored with the title cut from his debut album, "Hillbilly Rock." Its follow-up, "Tempted" yielded the hit title cut and "Burn Me Down" "It finally started happening the last couple of years," he said.

Those years have likewise been a boom time for country. Fueled by the likes of Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus, the music's future looks as bright as one of Stuart's trademark rhinestone jackets. New artists are selling records by the bushel.

Stuart is not without his reservations about that trend. "The only thing that worries me is it seems that country music is becoming little more like pop music and that we're creating a lot of disposable singers in Nashville," he said.

"I'm not sure about the staying power of a lot of these people that pop up with a lot of big records," he said. "It seems like when you explode out of nowhere and happen, you can vanish into nowhere again. It helps to have some roots."

By Pete Couture

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