The Rise, Fall, And Rise Of Marty Stuart - "You Gotta Have Luck"

This appeared in CountryBeat Magazine - August 1994

Since the 1992 release of This One's Gonna Hurt You on MCA, singer, musician and songwriter Marty Stuart has become one of today's most popular country entertainers. His duets with Travis Tritt tin 1992, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " and "This One's Gonna Hurt You," won the duo a Country Music Association award for Vocal Event of the Year. By 1993, "The Whiskey Ain't Workin' " had won a Grammy and Marty, his first gold record.

Marty's dramatic emergence to national stardom gave many country fans the impression that his success was born overnight. The stardom of Marty Stuart, however, had been long, long in the making.

Stuart's career began at the age of 11 as a guitar and mandolin player for The Sullivans, a gospel group that toured in and around his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. His first big break came the following year when he was asked to tour with Lester Flatt and his band. That association with one of country music's all-time legends led to his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry--at the ripe old age of 13!

Before long, though, he meteoric rise of the child prodigy leveled off as quickly as it had brought him within reach of national stardom. Over the next 12 years, Stuart continued to tour with Flatt until the leader's death in 1979, at which time, he began six years of recording and touring with Johnny Cash.

Marty didn't cut his first solo album until 1982. Busy Bee Cafe on the Sugar Hill label boasted the musicianship of Doc Watson and Johnny Cash but never gave Stuart the necessary boost toward stardom.
A contract with CBS in 1986 was, at the time, his greatest opportunity to date. Record sales for his self-titled album, though, soon warranted his dismissal from the label. Professional failings were not the only crisis he faced that year: his brief marriage to Cindy Cash also ended.

With his professional and personal life at a standstill, Marty quite literally began his career all over again. The Sullivans, the group with which he had begun his life in music, hired him again to our with them.

From that moment on, Stuart worked diligently to emerge as a permanent fixture in country music. His 1989 MCA debut, Hillbilly Rock, won critical acclaim for its rockabilly-flavored country. The 1990 follow-up, Tempted, produced four big hits, including "Little Things" and the title track. Some 20 years after his first appearance on their stage, Marty was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in November 1992.

Marty's newest album with MCA, Love And Luck, is a collection of cutting-edge, sure-fire hits and serves as an entertaining journal of an amazing life adventure. Country music's most deserving star was kind enough to speak with Andrew G. Hager for CountryBeat about love, luck, and that long, long journey.

CountryBeat: You've been around country music as a professional for more than 20 years. With all that hard work, how much can you say, honestly, that luck had to do with it?

Marty: A whole lot. If you're gonna run up and down the road and be a gypsy, you gotta have luck. I do think there's a purpose and a point to everything, though. And some things are anointed and you can't get around them. But you do have to have luck.

CountryBeat: Your career reads like a Who's Who of country music: The Sullivan Family gospel group, Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash. What did you learn in those formative years about life and love from legends like Lester Flatt?

Marty: If you ever watched Lester play poker, you realized that he's the luckiest guy on earth. I swear, you did not want to get in a poker game or a pool game or any game of chance with Lester, because he was a lucky boy. Some people just have luck in life and love and some people don't.

CountryBeat: Yours seems to be a mix of good and bad luck. After terrible luck with CBS, you headed full circle back to where you began: playing the mandolin for The Sullivan Family.

Marty: There's something to be said for great success. Everything's fast and furious and you're the talk of the town. But when you get slapped off the horse and nothing's going on, the first thing you have to do is get used to there not being any success. After those emotions, the air gets really still and you can really reflect and get to wondering if you got the chance again, how things could be better. I had plenty of time to think. A couple of years worth! (laughs) I really had to take a sum total of how far I'd come and the life I'd led on the road as a teenager and repair some damage inside myself and get ready for what might be about to happen. From that time to right now, I've pretty much accomplished everything I set out to do. There's this whole new set of goals that I'm just now getting a handle on. There's a whole lot more to do.

CountryBeat: Was the presence of gospel music in that soul-searching period helpful?

Marty: I still find it helpful on a daily basis. There's nothing that takes the place of true inspiration. You can't find it in money or in another person or in that No. 1. There comes a time when all that has to be set aside and you have to go inside and dig deep and see what that true inspiration is. I think the gospel and folk traditions give you a point to go from. They're the foundation and values of country music.

CountryBeat: Some 20 years after your first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, you were finally accepted into the fold. It seems a bittersweet victory.

Marty: I felt like the prodigal son coming home. I think it took them and me a couple of minutes to get adjusted to it. The first night there was so much hoopla around it. The crowd was really fired up. That's when it really hit me. Hey: I belong out here, and I'm proud of it.

Marty Stuart's Bare Bones Record Collection
1. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison
2. Bill Monroe And His Bluegrass Boys: The Original Bluegrass Band
3. Buck Owens: The Buck Owens Collection
4. Rolling Stones: The Singles Collection, The London Years
5. Muddy Waters: Best of Muddy Waters

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