Marty Stuart Comes Home To The Opry

This article appeared in The Opry Observer - December 1992

One of the Grand Ole Opry's youngest "oldtimers" has come home. At age 34, Marty Stuart became the Opry's newest member on November 28. Although considered one of country music's rising young stars, Marty's ties to the Opry go back 20 years.

He first walked out onto the Grand Ole Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium the weekend after Labor Day in 1972. This, his first Opry performance, came just a week after joining Lester Flatt's bluegrass band as a mandolin player. He was 13 years old at the time and already a veteran performer (having played with gospel star Jerry Sullivan).

"Roland White was a band member of Lester's," Marty remembered, "and we sang this song called 'Love, Oh Love, Please Come Home.' And you know how things are at the Opry or the old Ryman especially. When something exciting would start happenin' on stage, the crowd would gather," he recalled. "And when we got through and we encored, I looked around. There was Tex Ritter and Mr. Acuff and all the Smoky Mountain Boys and Jeanne Pruett. And Lester was just beaming."

"And it was so great because they all gave me their mark of approval then, he remembered. "They went on to be my friends. My peers were instantly Stringbean and Ernest and Mr. Acuff and Grandpa and folks like that. We had a lot of fun together."

Marty's response to people who ask if he has any regrets leaving his home in Philadelphia, Mississippi and going on the road as a teenager is "Are you kidding? What did I leave--a hamburger stand and a football game on Friday night, and I got to hang out with Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. I don't think I missed that much myself."

Marty didn't miss much in the years that followed either. He played for eight years in Lester's band until Lester died in 1979, then toured for six years with Johnny Cash. He also did studio and concert work, playing guitar and mandolin with many country and pop legends, including Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, The Everly Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Neil Young.

The Opry's newest member didn't forego his country roots. An avowed student of country music history, he plays guitars owned by Hank Williams Sr. and Lester Flatt, has in his closet 200 vintage country outfits, including rhinestone suits tailored by Nudie and Manuel and tours in Ernest Tubb's old Silver Eagle bus.

Bridging country music's past with its future is a mission for the veteran singer/songwriter/musician. The fact that his Opry induction came the week of Roy Acuff's death was "bittersweet" but somehow confirms his mission, Marty said backstage between shows.

He also explained that he talked with Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff about coming home to the Opry and both gave him their blessing. Mr. Acuff advised Marty not to forget the Opry, to keep his boots clean and always look nice on stage. This advice, Marty admitted, is really special now that Roy Acuff has died. "No one can take his place, but I believe the Opry is going to go on."

Marty bases that belief on the number of young fans who come to his shows. "They love country music, but I'm not so sure a lot of them know about the Grand Ole Opry," he explained. "I consider it my job...and all of us young artists out here....should consider it our duty and our job to get the word out that the Opry is a "living, breathing place.

"And it is, I hate to use this word but, it is hip. And it's hip to come to the Opry because once you see somebody like Garth Brooks or myself or Travis Tritt that you love, you're going to discover somebody like Jimmy Dickens or square dancing. And there's something here for everybody."

When reminded his induction fell on the Opry's actual birthday, November 28, 1925, Marty noted he is ever mindful of its founder George D. Hay's admonition of "Keep it close to the ground, boys."

"Everybody asks me, 'Will country music last or is it just a trend this go-round?' and I refer to George a whole lot about that. I think as long as we entertain 'em and keep it down to earth, we're going to keep all these new people listening to it," Marty added.

If the Opry's youngest "oldtimer" has his way, these newcomers to country music will remain Grand Ole Opry fans "for a long, long time."

Look ma! No hats!

Should Marty Stuart find himself at the Opry at the same time as Travis Tritt, his "No Hats" touring partner and the Opry's most recent addition before him, fans can expect a duet performance.

Their recording collaboration yielded the No. 1 hit The Whiskey Ain't Workin' and earned them 1992 CMA Vocal Event of the Year honors. If he's on the same night with his buddy Travis, who he describes as the "Opry's youngest and prettiest member," Marty predicted, "You'd probably have to get a chain to keep us from messin' with each other."

In addition to his success with Travis, Marty has enjoyed solo success since 1989 when he introduced his brand of music to fans on his three MCA albums, Hillbilly Rock, Tempted and This One's Gonna Hurt You.

"Hitting the stage with a honky tonk band is quite different," said Marty whose previous Opry appearances with one exception were as member of Lester Flatt's band. "We played bluegrass music out there so there were no amplifiers involved."

Marty plans to bring his music to the Opry "as often as I can because I really love the Opry. I didn't sign on just because being a part of the Opry is a feather in an up-and-coming star's cap. I signed on to try to do it some good because I know how much good it's done me and six decades worth of people now. I'm very proud to be a part of this fraternity, and you can count on me to be around."

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