Drink In The 'Hit Pack'

Snazzy Marty Stuart Life Of The 'Party'

This article appeared in The Tennessean - May 20, 1995

The Marty Party is really taking a ride this year. The rhinestone-studded rooster-haired hillbilly rocker has a hits album, The Marty Party Hit Pack, which is not so unusual for a singer with six albums.

Consider, though, Marty Stuart's other smattering of ventures this year:

  • Nashville named a city trolley for him. ("Isn't that cool? I've always got a ride home now.")
  • A Marvel comic book of Marty adventures is coming out in July.
  • Stuart's own personal used-record store (well sort of) opens next month.
  • He preaches a testimonial for Jesus in a videotape program, Silent Witness, featuring country stars talking about their relationships with God.

Making the video was touch because, Stuart says, proselytizing can backfire. "There are people that proclaim it and preach it and knock people over the head with it and run people off," Stuart suggested. "And then some people actually don't say a word and get more done."

But Stuart had plenty to say on the tape and some of it is fairly dramatic stuff. "There have been times when I've come off the road from a hard bunch of months on the road," Stuart says in a church in his hometown of Philadelphia, MS, "and walked in this door by myself and crawled to this altar and begged God to keep me going."

Farther along in the tape, which also features Ricky Skaggs, the Gatlin Brothers and others, Stuart explains why he took part in making Silent Witness. "This is a vehicle for people like me who actually would love to say something about their faith but normally don't get asked. I think it's a great opportunity."

It's also apparently a great money-maker. Phone orders alone for the $29.95 tape have exceeded 200,000 and there are plans to ship the tapes to Christian retailers and national retailers such as Wal-Mart.

And the producers, Rainmaker Films (music videos for Lyle Lovett, Joe Diffie, Patty Loveless and Willie Nelson) have plans for two more similar volumes--one more with country stars and another with sports figures.

While producers push the video, Stuart is out touring this summer to support The Marty Party Hit Pack. The songs include such hits as Little Things from Tempted, Stuart's highest-charting single (at No. 5 in 1991), Hillbilly Rock from the 1989 album of the same name, and a couple of cover songs and new songs.

In all, Stuart had four Top[ 10 solo hits and two Top 10 hits with Travis Tritt. "I didn't want to call it a 'greatest hits' record because I don't really want to give in to the fact that we haven't had greatest hits yet. These are our starter records. These are the records that got me a gig on my own."

Why not wait for some great hits before putting out a hits album? "Hit Pack seems like a good marketing thought from the MCA marketing world," Stuart says, laughing."They were looking for a record and we needed some time to write up a new record." Hence, Hit Pack was born. And Stuart couldn't be happier. Some 250,000 copies sold in the first four weeks.

It's a long way from Stuart's start, singing at gospel tent meetings in Mississippi when he was 11. He toured with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt when he was 13, played with Johnny Cash's band for six years and won a Grammy for his 1991 recording with Travis Tritt, The Whiskey Ain't Workin'.

"Basically, whether it's bluegrass of whatever, if it rocks, I like to do it," he says. "A good twang, a little rock, I'm in." Despite his love of a good beat, Stuart remains true to his hillbilly heritage. "I know that everyone is not attached to the roots of country music as much as I am, and that's OK, but there's a wonderful world of knowledge should anybody decide to check into it. And it does help you play, even if you play the pop, the glossy side of country, I swear it helps you make better music."

Other things Stuart can look forward to: Marvel Comic's new book.

"Country Star Marty Stuart stars in an adventure he conceived! When Marty's approached by a shadowy figure who offers him a mystical ring, will he take it? What is the secret of the ring that a line of country stars owned, and why do some hillbillies from another world want it?"

The high drama unfolds in July.

Nashville's Great Escape chain of used records/comic books stores will opened a Second Avenue branch (next to the Wildhorse Saloon) dedicated to Stuart, "one of our most loyal customers," gushed Great Escape's Gary Walker. The store will contain a "Marty Party Headquarters" with all sorts of CDs and Stuart products.

What next, album-wise? "I don't have a clue. Just tell the folks it's gonna be a darn good record."

By Brad Schmitt with contributions from Lisa Benavides and Tom Roland

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