Rhinestone Cowboy Marty Stuart Rides Again

This appeared on MyCentralJersey.com - November 17, 2008

A star-studded birthday bash. A tireless tour schedule. A fresh-off-the-press book. A brand-new TV show. A historic memorabilia collection.

Except for the memorabilia bit, such busyness could very well fit the profile of publicity magnets the caliber of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, but it's actually the day-to-day of country mainstay Marty Stuart, easily his genre's most hardworking statesman.

Nearly all of the above, though, have long been fixtures in his resume: he's backed up and shared the stage with the biggest names in country, he tours like a madman, he's a published author, and his treasure trove of country collectibles is the stuff of legend.

It's no wonder, then, that Stuart's world now is all about The Marty Stuart Show, a barn-burning extravaganza that just debuted November 1 on cable's RFD-TV, a channel its handlers call a "rural lifestyle network."

"I love this show," Stuart, 50, says. "It represents everything that I cherish about traditional country music. I've fallen head over heels all over again with rhinestones, love songs, train songs, gospel songs, fancy pickin' and the steel guitar. I've always believed God made Saturday nights for country music. This show is a natural for Saturday night."

Not that Stuart ever fell out of love with music and mementos. In fact, in an amazing twist of fate, his lifelong obsession with both started some 40 years ago, on a Saturday night, when a young Stuart and his father would huddle around a black-and-white TV set and catch syndicated country-music shows.

Stuart loved the music all right, but the budding fashionista in him became enthralled with the flamboyant, bejeweled outfits, to the point that when he actually saw one in the flesh, on country pioneer Ernest Tubb no less, he thought it was "the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen; it was as if my black-and-white TV were coming to life in full color."

You could say Stuart is coming full circle. Donning some of country's glitteriest garb as he plays his merry mixture of traditional country, honky tonk, rockabilly and bluegrass, Stuart hosts a show that pays homage to the sounds and style sense that first turned him on to country.

Stuart would probably be the first one to admit he's not on the same wavelength as legends Merle Haggard and the late Johnny Cash — he's played with the former and was close friends with the latter — but he's quickly becoming an institution of his own in the country pantheon. A preservationist at heart, the four-time Grammy winner is a diehard, natural-born curator, boasting the largest music memorabilia repository in the country — 20,000 items and counting.

Fellow country lovers will get a small visual sampling of some of Stuart's keepsakes when he descends on Clinton Book Shop on Wednesday, November 19, to sign copies of his second photo book, Country Music: The Masters (Source Books), a compilation of personal photos of friends including Cash, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and many more.

Later in the evening, he'll join brother-in-arms Travis Tritt at the State Theatre in Easton, Pennsylvania, for a concert where the longtime dueting partners are sure to tear up classics like "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " and "This One's Gonna Hurt You."

"I just know that when we get together, I play better and he plays better," Stuart told The Sacramento Bee. "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."

Then for the adventurous, there's Sparkle and Twang: Marty Stuart's American Odyssey, an exhibit featuring 300 items from the singer's expansive collection of relics that recently opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. (The exhibit runs through March 1, 2009.)

For everyone else, YouTube will suffice: simply run a search on The Marty Stuart Show and be transported to Stuart's newfound night job — a piece of traditional country heaven.

"I want to establish a show that gives a voice and stage to traditional country music," says Stuart, who is backed by his band, His Fabulous Superlatives, in duets with wife Connie Smith and the great Little Jimmy Dickens in the season premiere alone. "This show is about authenticity."

By Cristian A. Farias

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