Welcome To The Marty Party

Stuart Celebrates Music and Music City

This appeared in The Tennessean - June 21, 1994

"I'm not a real bluegrass act," Marty Stuart said last Friday, "so I thought it might be nice to pull together a few friends to save me." Tonight, Stuart headlines the second in the Martha White summer bluegrass series at the newly reopened Ryman Auditorium. The series began last Tuesday with a show that teamed bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe with budding Alison Krauss.

Stuart is better known these days for rockin' country tunes with a strong backbeat and a bit of an attitude. Hillbilly Rock, Tempted, Burn Me Down and Now That's Country put a heavy dose of energy in a country context. He's also teamed several times with Southern rebel Travis Tritt.

But, Stuart also has a strong knowledge of country's past. He joined Lester Flatt at age 13 and toured later on with Johnny Cash. Stuart also made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry during September 1972--18 months before the Opry would leave the Ryman for permanent quarters at the Grand Ole Opry House off Briley Parkway.

Stuart returns to his heritage for tonight's version of the Marty Party--a vaudevillian production that includes numerous special guests: Once A Day Grand Ole Opry member Connie Smith; country/gospel performers Jerry and Tammy Sullivan; banjo player LeRoy Troy (whom Stuart compares to Uncle Dave Macon); and Michael Frith, a local fire-eating juggling mime.

"It goes back to Lester's band," said Stuart. "We did so much more than pickin'. We had gospel music, comedy--it was bluegrass wrapped up with a vaudeville bow. It's why Flatt & Scruggs had an edge. They were puritans who stuck with bluegrass, but they embodied a whole bunch more."

If Stuart's a modern-day spokesman for bluegrass heritage, he's also a spokesman on behalf of Nashville. Semi-jokingly referred to by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce as Nashville's International Ambassador for Tourism, he received a full-color portrait of Bill Monroe for his efforts during a Chamber luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon on Friday.

Stuart wrote a pro-Nashville song for the Chamber titled Dream, Dream, Dream, then shot a video that features the city skyline and airs daily on CMT and CMT Europe. He also contributed to a 30 minute informercial about Music City that aired in 10 other markets and did a video that's seen during incoming American flights on the new London route. In addition, Stuart helped pitch Nashville as the site for the gymnastics competition during the 1996 Olympics.

As a board member for the Country Music Foundation, he also had a voice in the forthcoming move of the Country Music Hall of Fame to its downtown location and provided support for the Ryman refurbishing and the Wildhorse Saloon. "As the 21st century draws close, I couldn't be more excited about Nashville," he said at the Chamber luncheon. "And I'm not gonna quit until we're on a first-name basis with the universe."

By Tom Roland

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