Work On New Album Also Led To Love

This appeared in The New-Times - November 5, 1998

When Connie Smith asked Marty Stuart to help her with what would become her first album in 20 years, she didn't know that she would find new love along with new music.

Smith had kept in touch with Jim Ed Norman at Warner Bros. Records through the years. He wanted her to go back into the studio, and she wanted to do it at the right time.

About three years ago, all the elements came together. Smith decided she would record again.

At a record company party, she asked Stuart to work with her on the project.

"He said, 'I'm busy, but I'd like to work with you,' '' she recalled in a recent phone call. "`I knew that he appreciated who I am and who I've been and was in touch with what was happening today.''

Smith went to work polishing songs she had written with Steve Wariner, Jesse Colter, Deborah Allen and others. She called legendary songwriter Harlan Howard and asked him to help her finish some songs.

She also asked Stuart to do some writing with her.

"When I talked to Marty about writing, I had no intention of getting involved with him,'' she said.

But something happened after their first writing session that hinted of involvement.

"It was the first day he came to my house, and when he left (I'm a mama at heart), I hugged him and said, 'You're just one of my kids.' ''

"He said, 'No, I'm not.' ''

Stuart had long had a crush on Smith, who had a smash hit in 1964 with "Once a Day.'' Stuart was 12 years old when she came to perform in his hometown, Philadelphia, Miss. He asked his mother to buy him a new shirt and take him to see her at a department store concert and autograph party.

Smith doesn't remember the yellow shirt, but she does remember the dark-haired boy who came through the line.

"Marty said, 'hi,' and the next thing I knew, he was up on stage, checking out the instruments.''

A year later, the boy would leave his parents and go on the road, playing mandolin with Lester Flatt. But that day, he wanted to get closer to some of the great musicians of the day who were playing in Smith's band. The skills of guitarist Jerry Reed and fiddler Johnny Gimble fascinated the boy.

"He has not changed one iota,'' Smith said. ``He's the gutsiest person I've ever known. And I believe he's a musical genius.''

Stuart's version of the love story begins with his accepting her offer to work on the album. (He ended up as co-producer.)

"You're an unfinished chapter in country music,'' he told her.

In a recent phone call, Stuart recalled how he urged Smith to write more, and how he offered to do some writing with her.

"Then somebody kissed somebody,'' he said.

Smith puts it a bit more delicately: "Our hearts fit together very quickly.''

Stuart remembers how one song, "Love's Not Everything,'' was written in a fit of passion.

"I kissed her and the song started coming to me,'' he said. "I said, 'Kiss me again,' and more came. We kissed our way through it.''

Stuart and Smith wrote several songs for the album, including "A Tale From Tahrarrie,'' which has an Irish feel.

"I just wanted to hear her sing a Celtic song,'' Stuart said.

The album, Connie Smith,' sat on Warner's shelf for nearly two years before it was released last month.

The love story didn't sit on a shelf. Stuart and Smith were married July 8, 1997.

The boy fan won the hand of the woman whose voice he admired, and the country singer snagged herself a gentle spirit to sit on the back porch with and watch the birds fly by.

The fact that she is 17 years older than her husband is no problem to Smith.

"I worried about it until somewhere between the first kiss and the second kiss,'' she said.

By Diane Samms Rush

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