Stuart's Sparkle & Twang Exhibit Opens July 10 At Riley

This appeared in The Neshoba Democrat - July 7, 2010

Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey opens July 10 at the MSU Riley Center in Meridian, featuring a traveling collection of his personal memorabilia as well as other stars.

Stuart, a Neshoba County native and award-winning musician, has collected and documented an unparalleled collection of music memorabilia from a "who's who" of performers, organizers said.

"This is a vibrant exhibit that is full of historic costumes, key artifacts and a must-see for music lovers," said Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Director Mary Beth Wilkerson. "Marty continues to be an ambassador for our state and he plays a very important role in the promotion of Mississippi through his music and his life."

The exhibit tells the story Stuart's personal experiences with some of the most famous stars of American music.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation will present Merle Haggard and Stuart live in concert in the Riley Center's historic theater on Sunday, July 25.

The exhibit, which is being brought to Meridian by The Jimmie Rodgers Foundation, represents more than 40 years of classic performers who made country, bluegrass, rock and Southern gospel music famous.

Stuart's complete collection, which includes more than 20,000 objects, is generally considered to be second only to that of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"I believe country music holds a prominent place within the arts," Stuart said. "For many years, I have been passionate about collecting and archiving the treasures of country music and its people. Most country artists from that golden era . . . you'd ask them what happened to that suit, and they'd say, 'Ah, I gave it away. I didn't think anything about it.' They didn't see the eternal value of it. Now that history has gone on and the world has turned a little more, this stuff means more than it ever has."

In addition, the exhibit showcases costumes, instruments, lyrics and other one-of-a-kind pieces, including Elvis Presley's sweater, Patsy Cline's makeup case, Johnny Cash's "man in black" suit and the hand-written lyrics to Hank Williams' hit "Your Cheatin' Heart."

"There's magic that occurred around these people and these objects," said Stuart.

The exhibit includes listening stations, ambient audio and video documentaries can be found throughout.

At the age of 9, Stuart formed his first band in his hometown of Philadelphia. He went on to join legendary guitarist Lester Flatt and his band as their mandolin player, and before he was 20 years old, he joined Johnny Cash's band on the road. While he was on tour with Cash in London in 1980, Stuart became motivated to become a collector.

He had met Isaac Tigrett, a co-founder of the Hard Rock Café, who invited Stuart to the Hard Rock in London. Fascinated by the scene created around memorabilia from the world's most influential musicians, such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, Stuart was inspired to formally craft his own collection.

Stuart became a solo artist, achieving fame on his own and earning hit songs, a platinum album, five gold records and four Grammy awards. Stuart also remained dedicated to collecting memorabilia from the stars he met, performed with and befriended.

The results are brought together in Sparkle & Twang, where they convey the story behind these legendary music personas and honor the significance of preserving the culture that represents America's musical past.

Opening day, July 10, will include a presentation by Manuel, known as the Rhinestone Rembrandt, a costume designer from Nashville who has dressed the stars for many years.

Tickets for the concert are available now by calling 601-696-2200 or visiting

Bringing the Sparkle and Twang exhibit to Meridian was made possible by The Jimmie Rodgers Foundation and its sponsor partners Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism, Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division, Mitchell Companies, MSU Riley Center, Peavey Electronics, The Riley Foundation and Structural Steel.

The exhibit will remain open until September 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday and on Saturday, from noon until 4 p.m.

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