Marty Stuart Talks About His Life, Tour With Travis Tritt

This appeared in the Modesto Bee - October 31, 2008

Some men are Jacks of all trades. Marty Stuart is a Marty of all media.

The busy country music star has a new tour, a new TV show, a new book and a new exhibit all in the next month. Stuart, who just turned 50 on September 30, shows no signs of slowing down.

He will perform on a double bill Wednesday at the Gallo Center for the Arts with friend and frequent collaborator Travis Tritt.

He spoke with The Bee from Nashville last week.

Q: You had a big 50th birthday celebration at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this month, congratulations.

Marty: Thanks, it was a nice evening. I like when people ask, "When is your birthday?" I say, "Whenever we can get the hall."

Q: How did this tour with Travis come about?

Marty: We had a string of tours in the early '90s together. This particular tour was kind of a fluke. I produced a record with Porter Wagoner a few years back and it became a victory lap for him before he passed away.

When he passed away last year, we had a concert in Savannah, Ga., still booked. I thought, before we cancel it, let me call Travis. He walked out and we never missed a beat. Magic struck and the next thing you know, we were talking about doing our own shows.

Q: How do you think you two complement each other?

Marty: I have no idea. If I knew that, I would have bottled it up years ago. I can't explain it. I just know that when we get together, I play better and he plays better. We just spark each other. I never leave the stage or the studio with him without a smile on my face because we have so much fun doing it.

Q: Speaking of fun, you just got your own TV show (on the RFD-TV channel), congratulations again. What will the show be like and why were you interested in doing it?

Marty: It is a 30-minute country music show. It came out of those 30-minute country shows I used to watch when I was younger; Porter had one. They were weekly shows that came out of Nashville. They were just pure country music, unapologetic country music.

I've been watching RFD (Rural Free Delivery, a channel aimed at rural America) and am a big fan of that network, what it stands for and represents. I said, "I want to be part of this channel."

Q: I understand your wife, country singer Connie Smith, also will be involved?

Marty: Connie will be on on a weekly basis, along with guest stars. Our first show is November 1 at 8 p.m. ET.

Q: Your country music memorabilia collection, Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey, is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame beginning this week until next March. What is in the collection and how did it start?

Marty: It is the largest private collection of country music memorabilia. I have about 20,000 pieces, according to my insurance agent. It started in my bedroom as a kid. As I became a touring artist in Nashville in the late '70s, early '80s, I realized the personal effects, the artifacts of the old world of country music were being discarded. It was showing up in thrift stores and pawn shops. So the heritage of country music was being thrown away.

I thought that was heresy; I thought there was no reason to destroy it. So it became a cultural mission to preserve as much of it as I could. The first thing I did was start buying the Nudie suits. I thought they were beautiful wearable art. I also have Johnny Cash's first black suit. Handwritten manuscripts to your "Your Cheating Heart" and "I Saw the Light" from Hank Williams.

Q: Well, you truly are a busy man, because you also have your second photography book, "Country Music: The Masters," coming out next month. Where did your interest in photography come from?

Marty: It came from my mom when I was growing up; she was a shutterbug. When I first went on the road, I went to a bookstore in the village the first time I was in New York City. I saw these beautiful jazz portraits hanging on the wall. They looked like they were taken by an insider, and they were, by (jazz bassist and photographer) Milt Hinton. I said, "I could do that with country music." So I started.

By Marijke Rowland

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