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Marty Stuart: country's renaissance man

By Jeffrey B. Remz, December 2005

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"It's really about quality music, and it's music that's meant to be admired by the mainstream," says Brown. "If not, that's fine too. It's good music."

Finances certainly entered into it.

"The cost is what makes it prohibitive for anybody to do that," says Brown. "He said 'I know'. He already had this live album recorded at the Ryman. It's just live, no fixes. He already had started 'Soul's Chapel' and played us a couple of things. Hell, I'm in the gospel music hall of fame, so I loved it."

"All of the things that he was saying, we put our pencils to it. The thing that keeps an A&R person (the record company people who sign new artists) or a record person like myself and Tim going is you have to be just a little bit idealistic. I remembered when I produced that Lyle Lovett (debut)...It was like blind faith. I loved it so much."

"I think that just Marty fits into that class of people," says Brown. "We want to be a part of it. If we watch our spending, this will work, and if we get lucky, we'll have an 'Oh Brother' or something. I don't think anyone would figure 'Oh Brother' would sell seven million."

"We just figure it's going to be a fun ride...This business is not about being genius. It's about a gift when something is good as opposed to mediocre. A lot of luck is involved, you know, right place, right time. That's what happened with Gretchen (Wilson), Big & Rich...Maybe this is going to be Marty's deal right here where he really shines."

"This is more than just about record sales. This is for him a statement and sort of a tip of his hat to the legacy of country music, and we want to be involved in it. If we thought we were going to lose our ass, we wouldn't do it. We figured we'd make some money, and if (we caught) lightning in a bottle like that moment with 'Oh Brother,' I think that could happen very easily."

Stuart doesn't spend all of his time on solo projects. He has worked with his wife, the great country singer Connie Smith. "She's such a great singer," says Stuart, adding, "She's as country as it gets."

In recent years, Smith also hit more of the gospel music circuit where she has enjoyed much fan support.

The two have been writing songs together and occasionally perform as well. Smith clearly is quite proud of her husband. The night prior to a question-and-answer session at the Americana Music Association conference in September, Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives put on a high energy, very well-received show at a Nashville nightclub with a beaming Smith in attendance with her daughter obviously enjoying the performance.

While Stuart says that Smith does not offer many ideas about his music to him, "when she does, I listen to her. Writing is the thing we feel we naturally do together."

Stuart, 47, is 17 years younger than Smith, who looks far younger than her age.

Stuart apparently had his eye on Smith for a long time. He recalls Smith playing the Choctaw Indian fair in his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. in 1970 when he was 12. "That was a big night for me, 'he says. "I got my mom to buy me a yellow shirt so she would notice me. On the way home that night, I told my mom 'some day I'm going to marry that girl'. It took me 25 years, but I did."

The two married at Pine Ridge Reservation.

Stuart also devotes time to his vast collection of country music memorabilia - everything from instruments to clothing. The Country Music Hall of Fame and other museums often use items from Stuart's collection for exhibitions.

Stuart says he decided to buy country items "instead of buying stocks and bonds."

He sure has done a lot of buying because he estimates that he has about 20,000 items in his collection.

One of his prized collection was the acquisition of many Hank Williams items in 1996. Stuart was contacted by Williams' sister, who was very concerned that the items find a good, respectful home, according to Stuart. After they met, Williams gave Stuart the collection.

"These things are spiritual beacons," Stuart says of his collection of items. Stuart indicated it was his mission to preserve country memories. "No one cared about Nudie suits," he says, referring to the clothing made by Nudie Cohen several decades ago.

Stuart talked about the possibility of having a nation-wide tour showcasing his country collection, although the seemed to be in its nascent stages.

Music, collecting and a deep knowledge and respect for country all are part and parcel of Marty Stuart.

In the introduction to Stuart's Ryman album, broadcasting legend Eddie Stubbs describes Stuart as a country music's renaissance man."

John Carter Cash's perception of his friend is that "Marty doesn't fit into anyone else's mold other than his own. He follows his own heart. The heart leads and the spirit leads and the body and the musicianship follow. Marty doesn't live by any standards so to speak set by the modern music industry."

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