Stuart Feels Elvis' Musical Influence

This appeared in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - January 9, 2010

As a musically inclined kid in Mississippi, Marty Stuart remembers taking inspiration from Elvis Presley.

"To all of us kids, especially Mississippi boys and girls, who played and sang music," Stuart said, "he gave us hope and kind of let us know it can be done."

Stuart followed his talent to Nashville, then to the top of the country charts. He's made music with Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Johnny Cash and many more.

On Friday, he found himself in Tupelo on what would've been Elvis' 75th birthday. At night, he performed a show for fans at Link Centre, but earlier in the day, he helped celebrate the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

"I love that boy right there," Stuart said, pointing to a portrait of Elvis on the wall of the Tupelo Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

More than 100 people watched and took photographs as Stuart pulled brown wrapping off a display cabinet, and Mayor Jack Reed Jr. pulled paper from another. They revealed a pair of costumes. Stuart's costume was from his "Pilgrim" tour; the other cabinet held Elvis' "chain jumpsuit," which he wore in the 1970 movie Elvis: That's the Way It Is. Both costumes will be on display until June 30.

"Elvis made it OK for all of us to wear capes," Stuart said, getting a laugh from the crowd. "I'll wear a cape in a Waffle House. I don't care."

'Sparkle and Twang'

The Elvis jumpsuit is on loan from Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. Stuart's comes from his personal collection of country music memorabilia.

That collection, Sparkle and Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey, will be on exhibit at the Tupelo Automobile Museum until June 30.

Stuart said other performers invest their "hillbilly money" in stocks and bonds, but he invested his in collecting costumes, guitars and other items that once belonged to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and other country music legends.

"This stuff, it is treasure," said Stuart, who also salutes his musical heroes in the book, Country Music: The Masters.

He bought Williams' memorabilia from a machine gun collector who had bars on his windows. "It was like cutting a deal with the Mafia," Stuart said. Other items were bought from relatives, thrift stores or auctions. He acquired A.P. Carter's autograph from a woman who drove him around a Virginia town in silence, then stopped at a house where she cut the signature off the bottom of a deed. "At last she said, 'I love what you do,'" Stuart recalled. "That's all she said."

He built his collection to honor the enduring voices of country music's past. He was right at home in Tupelo, where fans gathered to celebrate the legacy of a one-of-a-kind performer.

"Remember," Stuart said, "at the core of it all is great music."

By M. Scott Morris

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