Stuart To Lead All-Star Tribute To Carnegie Hall Of The South

This appeared in The Washington Post - June 22, 1994

To gauge the historic significance of Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, look through the eyes of singer-songwriter Marty Stuart as he leads an all-star cast through a one-hour tribute to the Carnegie Hall of the South in "The Roots of Country: Nashville Celebrates The Ryman" (Saturday night at 9 p.m. on CBS).

"The thing that struck me as the most interesting," Stuart said in a telephone interview, "is I looked down off the stage and to my left there was Quincy Jones and Natasha Kinski. I saw Katey Sagal there. I saw Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, The Mavericks. I saw Joe Diffie. I saw a lot of bluegrass musicians and new-country musicians and gospel singers. The Ryman is the mother church of country music. And What does a church house do? It opens its arms and welcomes all.

The newly renovated shrine, which housed the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, was a "pretty hip room" at the June 1 taping. Stuart said, "I was glad to see it get off the note of not just housing friends of country music, but friends of all different kinds of American music and all walks of life. From Quincy Jones to Bill Monroe is a pretty big span."

In between lie the talents of many artists who return to the red-bricked landmark for the television taping--Earl Scruggs, Carl Perkins, Loretta Lynn, Chet Atkins and Johnny Cash. There also are appearances by contemporary country singers such as Clint Black, Suzy Bogguss, Joe Diffie, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Hal Ketchum, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, Lee Roy Parnell, Pam Tillis and Steve Wariner.

The show also features historic concert footage and anecdotes from artists who have appeared at the Ryman, which began as a gospel tabernacle in the late 1800s.

"I started there when I was 13," recalled Stuart, 35. "I was in Lester Flatt's band and it was just kind of home. I had a great start in country music. I got off a Greyhound bus one day and had a job with Lester Flatt the next week and played at the Ryman a week later.

"I went from Philadelphia, Mississippi where I was trying to be in the high school band, study and get good grades, to a real job with a national touring act, and all of a sudden my peers become Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe, people like that."

Stuart, who serves as musical director for the Ryman special, is quick to give a tip of the cowboy hat to the artists who preceded him in the business. The sharp-dressing rockabilly-tinged honky tonker tours in an updated version of Ernest Tubb's old bus and plays country-rock pioneer Clarence White's 1954 Telecaster as well as Martin guitars formerly owned by Hank Williams Sr. and Lester Flatt.

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