Marty Stuart Aims to Maintain Country Music’s Sacred History Through Congress of Country Music in Mississippi; Will Take Part in Upcoming Tour With Chris Stapleton and Brent Cobb
Words and Photos by Max Stewart
The music world is certainly lucky to have icons like Marty Stuart, who preserves the traditions of classic country: the signature sound, the definitive look, and the many artifacts from the heyday of twang. In addition to being a renowned songwriter, guitarist and mandolin player (“Orange Blossom Special” is a jaw-dropping clinic on how to master the mandolin), you’d have a difficult time finding anyone that carries the torch of the root fundamentals of country music while keeping the sound fresh quite like Marty Stuart does.
From Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart grew up as, first and foremost, a fan of country music. He saw all of the Nashville country stars that toured through his town and he collected memorabilia from his favorite Grand Ole Opry musicians. He is a music lifer. But at his core, he’s just another fan like us.
Stuart owns a warehouse in Mississippi of 20,000+ items of musical treasures that include artifacts of clothing, set lists, and all sorts of memorabilia from a variety of country legends that he has amassed over his career. Stuart is so passionate about the preservation of these items that he has proposed that they be included in the Congress of Country Music in his hometown, along with a concert venue, museum and an educational facility known as the Marty Stuart Center that will teach students about the breadth of music industry career opportunities.
When Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives rolled through Atlanta earlier this year at the Variety Playhouse, the dapper quartet not only displayed top notch musicianship, but it was clear that Stuart would be the perfect dinner party guest. Full of stories that ranged from him running into George Jones on Music Row in Nashville after he had a lackluster album release to his touring days with Johnny Cash, audience members had wide eyes as Stuart casually and confidently told these gems. Stuart even quipped about the difficulty in having to learn the 400+ word song “El Paso” for a Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony: “Like singing ‘War and Peace’…”
“The first two records that I owned were Flatt & Scruggs and Johnny Cash,” Stuart stated as he would coincidentally go on to tour with both Johnny Cash and Lester Flatt early in his career. Needless to say, Stuart has earned his stripes and widespread adoration in the world of honky tonk and bluegrass, and no one can miss his signature look with the ever-present scarf and a range of stylish suits (yes, some are rhinestone). He even brings his storied artifacts on the road: Stuart plays Clarence White’s B-Bender Fender Telecaster live, a holy grail for country music collectors of the world.
He doesn’t hog the limelight either. In addition to Stuart, the Fabulous Superlatives consist of the wildly talented Chris Scruggs (Bass), Harry Stinson (Drums), and Kenny Vaughan (Guitar). In Atlanta, each member sang at least one song of their own, which were opportunities to showcase their individual talents. Chris Scruggs – grandson of Earl Scruggs – sang Johnny Horton’s “Got the Bull by The Horns,” ‘Cousin’ Kenny Vaughan sang “Country Music Got A Hold On Me,” and ‘Handsome’ Harry Stinson sang Woody Guthrie’s “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd.”
On June 6, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives will host the Late Night Jam at the Ryman Auditorium with John Prine, Margo Price, Connie Smith, Chris Stapleton, and many more. This is a great example of Stuart’s influence and adoration in Nashville and in the country universe, based solely on the amount of top tier talent that will be performing alongside him and his band. The tickets for this event go on sale this Friday.
On Way Out West, Stuart’s most recent record with the Fabulous Superlatives, there are even psychedelic and surf guitar influences sprinkled throughout the album, which has a fundamentally Bakersfield-esque sound that translates remarkably well live. The album was produced by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ guitarist Mike Campbell, and it is quite possibly the group’s strongest release.
This Saturday, April 21st (Record Store Day), Way Out West – Desert Suite (Trip One) will be released as a limited edition 12” vinyl, which will include B-sides from those sessions as well as a duet with Merle Haggard, “TB Blues.” As a historian and statesman for the genre, Stuart respects country music’s elders and those that paved the way, like the late, great Haggard. Moreover, Stuart actually stayed in close communication with his former bandmate Johnny Cash until the day he died.
In a few weeks, Stuart will go on tour with Chris Stapleton and Brent Cobb as part of the All-American Road Show Tour. It is a pleasure seeing the new generation of ‘traditionalist’ country talents recognizing those that have maintained the character of the genre and moved it forward for them. Having seen Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives live, I can guarantee to any fan of country music that you will leave the concert not only supremely satisfied, but possibly even inspired. I actually picked up my acoustic guitar after their show and have been trying to polish off my flat-picking skills ever since (it’s been a slow process…).
In an era where good music can often get overlooked in the wild west of vapid internet streaming, it is comforting to know we still have folks like Marty Stuart who are keeping the history and preservation of the music alive and well for generations to come. In the past few years, this world has lost many musical legends far too soon. The public’s knee-jerk reaction after someone dies is to shower these individuals with praise and social media ‘love,’ but oftentimes in the latter years of these stars’ careers they are ignored by the masses and mainstream populous (see Sturgill Simpson ripping into the Academy of Country Music for capitalizing off of Merle Haggard’s passing).
We cannot allow that to happen with greats like Marty Stuart. In fact, Marty Stuart is appearing to have a resurgence in his career in the wake of his superb album, Way Out West, and he has a big tour on the books for the rest of this year with arguably the biggest new act in country, Chris Stapleton. Country fans cannot take advantage of Stuart’s presence in the world of music and must continue to show our admiration and appreciation for his work and musical accomplishments for the many years left in his career. Go check him out on tour!