I wasn’t surprised to see on the Tennessean newspaper’s front page this past Sunday morning a prominent photo and headline of one of my favorite country artists, Marty Stuart. If you’ve been reading my blog for the past two years, you already know about my fascination with this guy.
|Photo by Anthony Scarlati|
Yes, his music is what I like to listen to. Yes, I am a sucker for his Saturday night TV show on the RFD-TV network–probably because it’s got an old-school Porter Wagoner Show look, due to the fact that Directv doesn’t broadcast it in HD yet.
All of this pales to the fact that the music coming out of my TV speakers during the show each week is fresh. This is ironic since many of the music styles Stuart leans on hale from late 60s/ early 70s. The Fabulous Superlatives, Marty’s band, are creating killer music, and everyone from Shooter Jennings to Emmylou Harris to Merle Haggard have made an appearance on the show. Everybody seems to be paying attention! That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see the front page Sunday.
Marty has enjoyed a remarkable career. In 1972, as a 13-year-old fresh out of Philadelphia, Mississippi, he was invited to play mandolin with the Lester Flatt bluegrass band. As he got older and his playing matured, he was introduced to all of the bad things that many a young musician finds along the road: drugs and too much alcohol. His career took a huge step forward when, in October 1989, his solo record “Hillbilly Rock” started climbing the charts. He spent most of the 90s releasing hit records and enjoying “star” status. After a while, country music headed in a different direction, leaving Stuart and many other artist clamoring for a career. That’s when Marty went to his old friend and former boss, Johnny Cash, for some advise. From Peter Cooper’s interview in Sunday’s Tennessean, Marty explained,
“I said (to Cash), ‘I can’t seem to get my hand on the brass ring downtown,’ ” he says. “He (Cash) said, ‘There ain’t no brass ring, and if there is and if you get it, what have you got?’
Another pivotal conversation spawned one more of many “aha” moments. Stuart was troubled with the state of traditional country music and expressed:
“I thought, our culture’s slipping away,” he says. “I thought, ‘The music itself is fast fading.’ I had a talk with
(gospel music kingpin) Bill Gaither, and he said, ‘If you love your culture and stand by it when nobody else does, you become the go-to guy for your culture, because of your love.’ ”
Since then, Marty has taken a lonely road but one that proved to be exactly the best direction he could have steered his career. Now he is the go-to guy for traditional music.
My take-away from Marty Stuart and his amazing story is this: When you’re not invited to the party, throw your own! In doing so we may find that, 1) everyone’s waiting for someone else to make the move, and 2) the music business needs a brave soul to step out and take a chance with passion, determination and class with music they love. Chances are there are thousands of fans just waiting to throw their hard-earned money down on you and your music.