When you hear the name Marty Stuart, you visualize a stunning head of hair, neck scarf tied perfectly, and a voice that mixes superbly with his extraordinary vocal and instrumental talents.
As I sat on the 2nd row at The Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City, directly in front of me was a couple of Stuart and Superlative friends. It didn’t take us long to draw up a conversation. You could actually hear in their tone how excited the two of them were to be attending this specific concert. Garry and Gail Bates had traveled from the eastern side of Oklahoma to the center of the state for an evening at one of the newest venues in OKC.
A Saturday afternoon for young Marty Stuart was hanging out at the Busy Bee barber shop, where he was introduced to bluegrass music. Marty picked up the guitar at the age of 9 and left home when he was 12, with his family’s blessing, when he went on the road with The Sullivan Gospel Singers. The path from the Pentecostal Church, tent revivals, and campaign rallies was just a prelude for the definition of Marty’s life.
By the time, Marty returned to school, he already had the mandolin on his brain. He traveled from Mississippi to Nashville on a Greyhound bus after an invitation from Roland White. Arriving in the middle of the night was in itself overwhelming, but as Stuart rounded the corner, there IT was, the mother of ALL Venues, The Ryman Auditorium. Stuart states, “I fell to my knees in awe.”
Labor Day 1972, Another dream came true for the 13 year old Marty. He was hired to play mandolin with Lester Flatt. From that moment forth, Stuart’s dream was coming true. Another person who played an important role in Marty’s life was Danny Farrington who introduced him to the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. In 1979, Stuart began to play with Cash. It was in 1999, that Stuart went from the Penthouse of Country and Bluegrass to the dusty basement of “yester beens.” Stuart had switched from Columbia label to MCA and recorded The Pilgrim (around 1999). What should have been the golden brick road to the top for Stuart was commercially a failure. From where Marty had been, he knew he had to climb out of his party lifestyle of whiskey and pills.
In 2004, after 48 hours on the cold concrete floor of a jail cell, Marty Stuart gained his sobriety. Then he brought forth a band of boys “That can Back it up” and pioneered the reemergence of the genre and the culture of cowboy music with country and bluegrass influences with the Fabulous Superlatives. The decade of the 2000s was an immense resurgence for Stuart. Marty gained MORE fame with his program on RFD, which ran for 156 episodes.
By 2010, Stuart had been nominated for two Grammys, had been on the Electric Barnyard Tour with Merle Haggard, and recorded Way Out West with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. One of the most touching things, Stuart produced Johnny Cash’s Gospel album, Believe in Him, as well as co wrote the last Johnny Cash song, and took the final photograph of Cash before his death.
Now it’s 2018, and Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives have released another CD, Way Out West.
As I walked out of the Tower Theatre and looked back at the original marquee, I realized that I had just sat through history in the making. I traveled the miles with Marty Stuart, and made some new friends as well.