Country Stars Announce Tour, Perform at Faulkner's Home

This appeared in the University of Mississippi News Services - June 2, 2003

As country music star Marty Stuart walked up the cobbled pathway leading to William Faulkner’s historic home Monday, he greeted fans and radio and television crews with melodic strumming from his chocolate-colored mandolin.

Some 200 people lingered on the front lawn of Rowan Oak on the edge of the University of Mississippi’s campus to hear Stuart and country music icon Merle Haggard announce plans for their “Electric Barnyard Tour,” a summer grassroots tour across America’s heartland.

Addressing the crowd, Stuart thanked William Faulkner: “Whether he knows it or not, there are a lot of hillbillies in his yard this morning.” Stuart, 44, is a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Joined by their bands and other musicians on the tour, Stuart and Haggard, 66, performed at the event, which was broadcast live by Nashville’s 650 WSM-AM Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio and WSM Online.

The tour opens July 6 in Sierra Vista, Arizona, stretches to Boca Raton, Florida, and ends July 17 at Pueblo, Colorado. Stuart bills the performances as a “tour of the backyards.” The singer-songwriters plan to concentrate their brand of traditional country music in smaller locales.

“We’re going back to remember the forgotten ones,” Stuart said. ”We want to set the stage for protecting the integrity of country music as an art form.”

As a writer and self-proclaimed lover of literature, Stuart said the Oxford setting was perfect to announce the tour with Haggard, “poet of the common man.”

Stuart said tickets for the concerts will be $25 each in advance and $30 at the door. For a concert schedule go to: Waffle House was announced as the tour’s major sponsor.

Eddie Stubbs, WSM’s Grand Ole Opry announcer and fiddler for the Grammy-nominated Johnson Mountain Boys bluegrass band, said, “This tour is about taking country music with substance back to the people. There’s so much more to country music than what you’re being force-fed on the radio. People are starved for substance.”

Strumming his guitar, Haggard performed “Suddenly It’s Over,” a new song about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its media coverage. “I’ve never sung this early in the morning before,” he said.

The tour also will feature the duo’s backup bands—The Fabulous Superlatives and The Strangers—as well as BR-549, Connie Smith, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage, and The Old Crow Medicine Show, who performed at the news conference. UM Chancellor Robert Khayat, an amateur guitarist and music fan, joined Haggard and Stuart on stage and strummed along.

Both artists are set to release new albums—Haggard’s Haggard Like Never Before and Stuart’s Country Music.

Haggard, whose involvement in music goes back to the 1960s, is hailed by many critics as “the greatest country artist of our times.” He became one of America’s most successful writers and singers of country music, and enjoyed an extraordinary streak of 37 straight Top 10 hits including 23 No. 1 singles in a 30-year career span.

Stuart is one of country music’s best known bluegrass and rockabilly artists. His hits include “Tempted” and “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” a duet with Travis Tritt. He has spent the past few years involved with film scores, (All the Pretty Horses, Hi-Lo Country and others); an album and book of words and photographs, Pilgrims; and working as president of the Country Music Foundation.

By Deidra Jackson

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