Star's Family Life Recorded In Pictures

Steady, Aim,  Focus, Fire!

This appeared in the Murfreesboro Post - April 4, 2013

Since her childhood in the Deep South, Hilda Stuart, the mother of country music star Marty Stuart and mother-in-law to internationally acclaimed singing sensation Connie Smith, has focused her camera to record milestone moments in her remarkable family’s history.

Hilda Stuart and her new book, Choctaw Gardens, will be at the Arts Center of Cannon County for a book signing from 6  9 p.m. on the evening of Monday, April 15.

“It’s a special, one-of-a-kind cultural event,” said Evin Hatch, executive director for the Arts Center. “We thought this might help folks get income tax details off their minds on that date.”

“We’re honored to have the author, her book and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, featuring banjoist Leroy Troy, here for the evening,” Hatch noted. “Plus, there promises to be some very, very special mystery music-making guests from the Grand Ole Opry on hand that night for the pleasure of the viewing public.”

Appropriately, Stuart’s pictorial book was published earlier this year in Oxford, Mississippi. She and her husband, John Stuart, reared their children in Philadelphia, Mississippi before the family moved to Nashville in the 1970s, so that Marty Stuart could pursue his entertainment career.

Recently, Hilda Stuart shared what it was like to let her son leave Philadelphia at age 12 to appear on the Grand Ole Opry with Music City legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

“Even as a small boy, it was evident Marty (Stuart) had a gift for all things music related,” she said. “Some family members didn’t understand why or how we could let him get on that big Greyhound bus bound for Nashville and the Opry.

“But close family and friends realized Marty (Stuart) was destined for a music career. I have a theme in a safe deposit box that he penned in the sixth grade, outlining his life, his career, even detailing that one day he would marry Connie Smith.”

The photographer focused on her motivation to take pictures as a little girl in the southern-most part of Mississippi.

“It was a family baptizing that I failed to have a camera at,” she recalled. “My granddaddy was a good fellow but had never been baptized. That’s when my grandmother, who had a limp from severe arthritis, decided to be baptized too.

“As they helped Grandmother down into the water, she had let her hair down … and just as the preacher put his hand up to baptize Granny, there was a cloud came over, and the light shined brightly on her head and beautiful hair that glowed. … Although it was a hot July, I had a chill when that happened.”

Hilda Stuart, now 80, said that is “when I resolved to never be without some kind of camera.”

Her first camera was a simple Brownie Hawkeye borrowed from a brother back in Mississippi. She still takes pictures with an antique Ansco camera behind the stage at the Opry and during taping episodes of The Marty Stuart Show, the highest-rated program on the RFD-TV cable network.

“Mother has always shot with whatever brand of camera happened to be at the house,” Marty Stuart explained. “She still takes better pictures with her simple cameras than I do with my expensive fancy camera.”

By Dan Whittle

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