Marty Stuart: Crusader For The Cause

As champion of hillbilly rock, Marty Stuart refuses to compromise his values

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In the consummate encyclopedia of country music, next to Marty Stuart's name, the definition will be simple: Authentic. Singer/songwriter/musician/performer--whatever challenge he undertakes, Stuart delivers with integrity and passion. It has not been easy, becoming a self-described stylist in a traditional world. But Marty Stuart is nothing, if not a survivor--20 years on the road have built a backbone that can weather the strongest of storms.

Calm and somewhat guarded initially, the transformation is 180 degrees when he confronts an audience; a man possessed by his craft. "I'm really low key," he observes. "I save my energy all day for that hour onstage. It's like coming home to a revival. Music lights me up." Indeed, he is a flamboyant collision of rhinestones and denim, jeans tighter than a hangman's knot, jackets rivaling a carnival midway, the rock and roll country peacock strutting across his domain with a look that imitates knowing just a little too much.....

Defending the faith is never an easy task. Music has become the music business, albums are now product, popularity measured by demographic charts and market research. Even sales are factored through computerized networks. But Marty Stuart has little time for such trivialities. He makes records from the heart, not the corporate perspective and, when he announces, "Now that's country," the instructional description is both ecstatic and reprimanding.

Although he is, after all, "The Wild One," there is great discipline involved in his mission. "I take most of January off to do nothing but write," he explains. I become a street guy and a writer. I get away. You shouldn't beat writing out like a nine-to-five job. There are guys who do that every day in Nashville; 'The Whiskey Ain't Workin' was written in that fashion. But my favorite way is walking down the road and feeling it, then taking it to paper. I like to be by myself and get truly inspired by good or hard times."

Thus, he is able, nightly, to flaunt himself with proud abandon before throngs of rowdy good ol' boys and their lustful female counterparts, without ever losing sight of who he is. "I remember where I cam from," is how he justifies his grip on reality. "At 13, I stepped off a bus in Nashville, looked at the Grand Ole Opry (Ryman Auditorium) and said, 'This is where I'm going.' It took me two minutes to remember the people and place I had just come from.

"Stardom," he reasons, "is nothing more than hard work. It's a hard job and a lot of sacrifices. What keeps me together is getting in my jeep with my bloodhound, driving off, and talking to God. I fish; I go to Wal-Mart. This is 33 years of love for country music, a combination of my influences and my talent. I just call myself a state-of-the-art struggling hillbilly singer."

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