Double The Fun For Country Fans

Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Oakdale tonight

This appeared in the Republican-American - July 12, 1996

Call it a family reunion, except the bond is music rather than blood. Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt, brothers in outlook, if not by birth, bring their act to The Oakdale at 8 p.m. tonight. It's not like the country stars had any choice about the joint tour. Their fans absolutely insisted.

"We had some success together a couple of years ago and we got through with that tour and didn't think about it anymore," Stuart explained during a phone interview. "I love Travis like a brother and we always hung out together, but we had no plans to go back on the road."

The fans planned otherwise. "What we kept noticing was that nobody would leave it alone," Stuart continued. "At fan clubs, at meet and greets, on the street, everybody would ask when me and Travis were singing together again."

The answer came when Stuart wrote a new song for the two called "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best" (also the title of Stuart's new MCA release). "I made a tape and sent it to Travis and we both thought the song worked."

Stuart believes he and Tritt get along so well because they have lived parallel lives. "We come from similar backgrounds, both Southern kids, both listened to the same artists, and he lives out there in a land that's just a little bit left of center," Stuart said. "We're both over the top. There were just a whole lot of those similarities added up. You couldn't get $25 for the both of us if you tried."

Stuart had nothing but praise for his partner's voice. "Travis Tritt is one of the most important singers out there," he said. "World class. He's not much of a fiddle player though."

Stuart can fiddle with the best of them, but it was a mandolin that got him his first paying job. Now 37, Stuart was just 13 when he got a job playing mandolin for bluegrass legend Lester Flatt. Stuart would hold the job until Flatt's death seven years later.

"I knew what I was born to do, and I hit the ground running," Stuart has said.

A veteran musician at 22, Stuart recorded his first solo album and started looking for new friends to play with. Over the years, his musical playmates have included Johnny Cash and dozens of other country artists and rockers including Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.

But Stuart's collaboration with Tritt has earned him the most acclaim. The duo has won a 1992 CMA award for vocal event of the year, a 1993 Grammy for vocal collaboration and a 1993 TNN/Music City News award for vocal collaboration.

Stuart, whose previous projects include an album and television show called "The Marty Party," said he's not the wild man the nickname suggests.

"It's always made me and Travis laugh that everybody thought we would finish the show and have a nightly drunkfest. The truth of the matter is that we'd get through, shake hands, and he'd go to his hotel room and I'd go to mine. We're both pretty sane."

That's how you last in the entertainment business: Save your party spirit for your fans and live a sane healthful life away from the limelight.

"I try to keep the right perspective," Stuart said. "I keep my feet on the ground and remember what is important. Johnny Cash once told me to keep my eye on the big picture, never sweat the small stuff. One of my favorite things to do is sit on the back porch, watch a new day begin and to be part of it."

Stuart will spend tonight being part of the newly expanded Oakdale Theatre's first season. His plan is to give his audience a party it won't forget. "I want them to have a great time," he said. "When they come out of there, I want them to feel as wore out as we are, and like whatever troubles they brought in with them got demolished. And the next day, I want them still to feel like they just got out of a great show."

By Nancy Van Valkenburg

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