10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
- 10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
1. Paying His Dues with Johnny Cash & Lester Flatt
Unlike many of the country music prima donnas who’ve set up shop in country music recently, Marty Stuart comes from the school that believes you have to pay your dues in country music before it’s your turn in the spotlight. Marty Stuart started playing professionally as a sideman in Lester Flatt’s bluegrass band in the early 70’s at the tender age of 14 under the tutelage of legendary mandolin player Roland White. Marty stayed with the band until 1978 when it split up because of Lester’s failing health.
After spending a couple of years working with Vassar Clements and Doc Watson, Marty joined Johnny Cash’s band in 1980, and stayed there for half a decade as both a sideman and a studio musician. Stuart also married Cash’s daughter Cindy in 1983. The two divorced five years later after Marty left Cash’s band to pursue a solo career.
2. Keeping One of the Biggest Archives of Country Music Memorabilia
Marty’s vast collection of country music memorabilia is one of the biggest in country music. It has been featured at the Tennessee State Museum, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and pieces are regularly loaned to the Country Music Hall of Fame for exhibits.
“I went to the first Hard Rock and I saw The Beatles, The Stones, Otis Redding, The Who, all their stuff on the wall. And in my mind I went, ‘Well that’s just as important if it’s Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, George Jones, and who on.’ And so when I came back to America, I made it a mission. I mean it became my whole focus at that time. Get a record deal, start a band, make them look cool, and get all of the country music artifacts you possibly can and preserve them, lock them down, because they’re getting away fast.
“Everything was changing in country music. The look of it, the sound of it, and this stuff was just a throwaway”¦The ultimate mission is not just to preserve this stuff, protect it, promote it, save it, but to get the music into the hands and hearts of young people that are coming through and [saying), “Well I want to do that, but they tell me I have to be like so and so.” But we’ve already got one of those. Be who you are, at any cost.” (read full story)
3. Inviting Cool Artists Onto The Grand Ole Opry
Playing the Grand Ole Opry stage is one of the biggest thrills and highest honors any artist within the country music realm can be bestowed, but it is not an easy one achieve. One way to grace the stage is to be invited up by a standing member to play during their set, and that is how young, up-and-coming stars like Sturgill Simpson, to one of the oldest living country stars still around, the 90-year-old Don Juan Maddox of The Maddox Brothers & Rose both made their first appearances on the hallowed stage of the storied institution. Marty was also the man who officially invited Old Crow Medicine Show recently to become The Opry’s newest members; the first traditional -leaning band to be invited in the last half decade.
4. Hummingbyrd & The Clarence White Guitar
As explained above, Marty Stuart has many pieces of country music memorabilia, but none of them may be as prized as his guitar affectionately called Hummingbyrd. The 1965 Fender Telecaster was originally owned by famous guitarist Clarence White—a studio musician, member of The Kentucky Colonels, and most-famously, the guitarist for The Byrds (hence the “Y” in the name).
Hummingbyrd is no ordinary guitar. It was the original prototype for what is know as a “B-Bender” guitar—a custom job invented by Clarence White and Byrd drummer Gene Parsons, who happened to also be a machinist. The point of the custom job is to be able to mimic the moaning sounds of a steel guitar by bending the B-string up a whole tone through a series of levers activated by pushing on the guitar’s neck, body, or bridge. When Clarence White passed away, his wife sold the legendary guitar to Marty Stuart, who uses it as his primary instrument.
Included on Marty’s 2010 album Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions is a instrumental called “Hummingbyrd” where Marty Stuart puts on a clinic on how to use this unique instrument. The song went onto win the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance. Hummingbyrd shows both Marty Stuart’s passion for the preservation of country music’s history, and his prowess as a guitar player matched by few in the genre.
5. Standing Up To CBS / Columbia For Dropping Johnny Cash
A running theme in these 10 Badass Moments has been the firing of Johnny Cash from CBS Records in 1985. Merle Haggard mouthed off to CBS Executive Rick Blackburn about the firing, saying, “You’re the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that you’re the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.”
When Marty Stuart left Johnny Cash’s band, he signed to Columbia (previously CBS), and in 1988 recorded his second album for the label called Let There Be Country. However Columbia refused to release it. Though some have surmised it was because Marty’s first self-titled Columbia album didn’t sell well, in James L. Dickerson’s 2005 book Mojo Triangle, he explains Columbia didn’t release the album because Marty Stuart had a heated exchange with a Columbia record executive about the Johnny Cash firing. Columbia shelved the album in retribution, and Marty eventually left the label without recording another album for them. Marty then signed to MCA where he had his greatest commercial success, and amidst this success, Columbia decided to finally release Let There Be Country in August of 1992.
6. Hosting The Marty Stuart Show
Patterning itself around the classic country music variety shows of the past like The Porter Wagoner Show, Flatt & Scruggs, and Hee Haw, The Marty Stuart Show is one of the last bastions for true, classic country music on television. Carried by RFD-TV, this weekly show features Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives, his wife Connie Smith, and just about the coolest variety of country music artists you can see on TV—artists from the new generation like Justin Townes Earle, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson, Hank3, and The Quebe Sisters, to older artists like Don Maddox, Del McCoury, and Stonewall Jackson, and to artists in between like Jim Lauderdale, and Corb Lund. If they’re good, they appear on The Marty Stuart Show, and after five seasons, it has become its own country music institution, and an important distinction for the artists invited to play the show.
7. Playing with Lester Flatt on the Porter Wagoner Show at 14
Are you kidding me? That’s Marty Stuart folks, playing mandolin and singing!
8. Releasing Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota
Similar to his mentor and hero Johnny Cash who released what was arguably the first country music concept album with his tribute to the American Indian called Bitter Tears in 1964, Marty Stuart released a concept album also in tribute to the American Indian called Badlands: Ballads of the Laokota in 2005. Recorded with his backing band The Fabulous Superlatives, it focused on the struggle of Native Americans, and was entirely written by Stuart except for one song, “Big Foot,” written by Johnny Cash. It was also recorded at the Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, TN, with John Carter Cash as co-producer.
But this album wasn’t just Marty patterning himself after Johnny Cash. Stuart has spent much time in the Dakotas learning about the Lakota Sioux, including studying at the Oglala Lakota College. For Marty, the poor treatment of Native Americans is a very real issue.
9. Marrying Connie Smith
Why would a handsome young Marty Stuart marry a woman 16 years his senior? Well first off, have you seen Connie Smith? Aside from how good time and country music has been to her, she is bona-fide country music royalty and one of the most familiar faces of the Grand Ole Opry. But this isn’t some celebrity sham marriage, the matrimony speaks to Marty’s undying appeal for all things country music and the love between the two country stars is deep. Together, they’re a classic country dynamic duo that is hard to stop (and I have my suspicion at night they dress up as superheroes and do battle with Music Row’s most evil villains).
10. This Quote:
“Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee, is play country music.” –Marty Stuart
February 15, 2014 @ 12:44 pm
May I just say that I’m proud to own The Pilgrim album, quite possibly one of his greatest albums ever.
February 15, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
I’m not sure how to post links but Marty with Kayton Roberts covering Hank Snow’s Now and Then is great (one of my favorites anyway). You can find it on the youtube. Gotta respect Kayton too for everything he’s done. From Hank Snow to Hank 3!
February 15, 2014 @ 1:02 pm
Kayton Roberts is a very cool steel guitar player. I could have probably posted 20 or 30 videos of different moments on the Marty Stuart Show on here. Pretty much every episode something epic transpires.
All you have to do is post the URL in a comment and it will show up as a link. But only I can embed video 😉
February 15, 2014 @ 1:39 pm
I have loved Marty since he came out with ‘this one’s gonna hurt you’ in the early 90’s. even though I was only a kid at the time, I grew up listening to country and he was my favourite. I still like his early 90’s music for nostalgia’s sake, but I think everyone should listen to his albums ‘The Pilgrim’ and ‘Ghost Train.’ He did his best work when he was out of the mainstream, I think. Thanks for the article.
February 15, 2014 @ 1:48 pm
The Marty Stuart Show is hands down the best thing on TV today. Never miss an episode!
February 15, 2014 @ 5:30 pm
Sturgill Simpson will be appearing on the Marty Stuart Show in half an hour!
(As of this writing)
February 15, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
Kim ”“ Would you say that the party life-style that surrounds you as a country music superstar makes it more difficult to live out your faith?
Marty ”“ Nah! Absolutely not. It just amounts to getting right and getting real. I totally understand that I”™m an outsider to the Christian music circles and that”™s all right with me. Since the time I started touring when I was 12 years old I”™ve had a lot of friends in quartets. Some of the most decadent human beings I”™ve ever met are gospel singers and preachers. I promise you that a lot of them that I know could give Keith Richards and me and Johnny Cash and George Jones a run for our money on our best night back in the day. So let”™s not go pointing fingers at country stars. It”™s about being people that”™s either right or wrong. If you blew the lid off of the church I think there would be a lot of rats going scrambling.
February 15, 2014 @ 5:38 pm
Marty is an authentic country music treasure.
In a world of country music pop and bro country, he is the real article, but he doesn’t have to beat his chest and sing about his authenticity.
He has been walking the walk his whole life.
He doesn’t need to record a bunch of vacuous drivel about chasing pussy down by the lake while drinking his 3rd six pack of tall boys.
You left out the most important fact of Marty and Connie’s existence – they are unabashed committed Christians who look to God, and not to Music Row, for their direction in life.
February 15, 2014 @ 5:56 pm
For years, people have been looking to the hills for a “country music savior” but Marty Stuart probably comes closer than anyone else at the moment, showing actual leadership in keeping traditional country music alive. I suppose he had never had the level of commercial success that most of the iconic country music legends had, but he has become an elder statesman in the genre partly because he cares enough to serve in that role. I don’t blame anyone else for not wanting to take up the mantle of ambassador of the country genre, especially at a time when the term “country” is seen as embarrassing by many, but I’m glad someone is trying. I also think MS earns credibility as the host of the TV show by also putting out some of the best music of his career contemporaneously with his hosting gig. He is hosting a show from the position of a current top recording artist (critically speaking) not as a musical “has been” who hung up his guitar in favor of television.
(By the way… the embedded videos are totally blank at the moment, but that might just be me?)
February 15, 2014 @ 7:54 pm
I wish Marty and Connie would found an honest to goodness “American Traditional Country Music Association” in Nashville and get people like WSM’s Eddie Stubbs and Dale Watson on board. As much as I appreciate Dale’s efforts with his Ameripolitan Music Awards, that is just too Texas centric to have any influence nationwide. Why not sponsor “Traditional Country and Bluegrass Festivals” around the country? Bluegrass and “Roots” festivals (and even cowboy/western swing music for goodness sakes) thrive around the country and yet nothing is being done to promote traditional forms of country music. A few traditional artists on the small side stages at southern California’s Stagecoach Festival just doesn’t cut it.
It kills me that RFD TV is not available from the two cable TV systems available in our neighborhood in Los Angeles region of Southern California. (I have no interest in satellite as I like to “bundle” services.) Neither Time-Warner or AT&T U-Verse carry it in our area. It must be those seeming hundreds of foreign language stations eating up all the bandwidth and the ever shrinking caucasian demographics in our area. Damn that multi-culturalism! (lol)
February 15, 2014 @ 9:01 pm
DirecTV has the foreign language stations (more than cable) and RFD. I think it is more because the cable companies typically only put on channels that get high viewership or pay for them. Most people in the middle of the country (RFD’s main audience) where cable doesn’t reach have satellite so DirecTV and Dish have more motivation to carry It. I know DirecTV bundles in some markets.
February 15, 2014 @ 8:25 pm
This is quite interesting Trigger. I do not know much about Marty Stuart, only that he seem to show Hank 3 much respect, which puts him a coupe notches up in my book. Thanks for this informative article. I am going to check out his music.
February 16, 2014 @ 12:56 am
It’s good to see the B Bender again in such capable hands…. I saw the Byrds with Clarence in the early 70’s and couldn’t figure out how he was getting those sounds…
February 18, 2015 @ 7:13 pm
I only have one problem with this article: The writer incorrectly named
Clarence White’s 1954 Fender Telecaster as something else:
The actual name that Marty gave the guitar when he purchased it (and some clothes) from Clarence’s widow, Susie, was simply — “Clarence” — and the
Guitar has kept that name ever since Marty purchased it in 1980.
All of his instruments are named after the musicians who used to once
own them. I actually got to put that legendary
electric guitar around my neck and play it just
literally minutes before Marty went onstage for
His evening show at the Georgia Mountain Fair on July 17, 2008!
The band I was in at the time were his opening act that night.
It was definitely an entire day (he performed two shows – an afternoon
And evening show) that was very memorable
for me! Marty took two pictures of me plunking on
the guitar and a fair staff member took a group photo
of Marty and our band. Kenny Vaughan even came
out onstage during our first sound-check and asked
me about my (now sold) 1996 Reissue Pink Paisley
Telecaster with B/G StringBenders, Keith tuners on both ‘E’
strings and a set of Joe Barden Danny Gatton guitar pickups.
I was absolutely awed by the whole experience
and I have not forgotten about it almost eight years
October 19, 2019 @ 9:32 am
Just saw Marty for the first time live in Oxford, AL. WOW! He’s still rockin’ it old school. He and his incredibly talented band were tighter than a tick!!! Met him after the show and he was so genuine there and during the show! Thanks for your post and particularly your “Clarence ” comment. He rides that guitar hard. but picks it up and down gently. Thanks!
Tom the Polack
February 16, 2014 @ 4:56 am
This quote at the bottom of the article is propably the best! Another great article from the ‘top badass moments’ series. Thank You.
February 16, 2014 @ 7:03 am
Has anyone seen video of marty playing In Johnny Cash’s band in the 80s? I have found early 80s videos of Johnny Cash on YouTube but none with Marty Stuart.
February 17, 2014 @ 4:59 pm
Marty was with Johnny on a talk show..Either David Letterman Show or??? I had just seen it..Will have to look back!!
February 16, 2014 @ 9:33 am
Marty is truly the unsung hero of country music, in my opinion. I have the utmost respect for this guy.
February 16, 2014 @ 10:38 am
Many country acts pay lip service to their Christian roots, but few actually do it with Marty’s style and conviction.
Throughout his RFD show…the camera moves over to a painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
February 16, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
To add to the (well-deserved) praise of the show on RFD-TV, as a live act Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives are hard to beat. They’re a tight group of musicians, all extremely talented in their own right, and they’re in touch with their fans. I was at a sort of “homecoming” for Marty Stuart when he filmed an episode of the show at the Ellis Theater in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. After playing a warmup set, doing the recording for the show, and then playing several more songs for the crowd, Marty announced that he, the band, Connie, Leroy Troy, and Eddie Stubbs would all be hanging around to sign autographs and shake hands for as long as there were folks in line. Marty’s love for country music history, going back to the earliest days of the genre, was evident. If you get the chance to see them live, take it.
February 16, 2014 @ 3:01 pm
#11 Badass Marty Stuart Moment:
How he pulls off wearing those scarves.
February 17, 2014 @ 8:46 am
I love the duroc pig tattoo story about Marty’s scarves!
February 16, 2014 @ 8:42 pm
Great job as usual, Trig.
Learned alot more about the man. Luckily got to see him when his album was hot back some years ago. I think he was warming up for Travis Tritt at the time. I remember he got pissed at his drummer at one point for something… it was a subtle look of death but I happened to see it… very subtle but effective!
I used to think he was just a poser but boy was I wrong.
February 16, 2014 @ 10:44 pm
This was really interesting. I love all of the “10 Badass Moments” articles, but I think I learned the most from this one.
I grew up kind of just ignoring Marty Stuart, it’s only been in the last few years that I have learned how important he is to country music and just how great of an all around person he is. And man, if his last few albums haven’t been great as well.
February 17, 2014 @ 6:29 am
Love Marty Stuart, one of the genuine talents of Country music. His impact stretches across country, Americana and bluegrass. I also saw that he and Travis Tritt are about to do a new project together, which I look forward to, because I know Marty will bring out the best in Travis.
February 17, 2014 @ 9:49 am
Just saw him Saturday night – great show, as all of them have been. Have loved me some Marty since the Hillbilly Rock album. Marty’s the real deal.
TX Music Jim
February 17, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
MArty as as real as it gets, period. Glad he is out there standing up for country music!
February 17, 2014 @ 1:35 pm
Very lucky to have Marty in country music, he is the real deal.
February 17, 2014 @ 4:34 pm
Marty is without a doubt badass, but if Don Maddox is 90 years old in that video, he is in his own category of superbadass. wow.
his band The Maddox brothers and sister rose, was definitely badass.
And this is another great article.
Thanks a lot, there is always something good to be found here.
February 17, 2014 @ 4:39 pm
the fact that Marty bought the Clarence White B Bender, and uses it, instead of sticking it in some air conditioned guitar mausoleum as an investment, is
one hundred percent badass.
February 17, 2014 @ 6:26 pm
I really think his hair and makeup needs to be on the list. Maybe it’s own badass countdown.
Seriously, all respect to Marty for his authenticity and his work to bridge the divides in country music.
February 17, 2014 @ 7:14 pm
Love this man. I got the RFD-TV channel just because of his show… (and The Joey & Rory.) Coolest cat to ever grace country music and music.
February 17, 2014 @ 7:14 pm
Marty is a blessing to traditional country music in so many ways; nice tribute.
I do think the list needs an 11th entry for his annual Late Night Jam at the Ryman. He gives exposure to a lot of under-the-radar deserving artists and raises funds for Musicares and CMA’s Keep The Music Playing Fund at the same time.
February 18, 2014 @ 9:43 am
When I see Marty paying tribute to an older artist, I always hold my breath. He has an uncanny way of picking his guests….for some it is their last appearance on earth.
February 18, 2014 @ 8:14 pm
He’s a treasure for sure, and so is his show. I remember when he had Kitty Wells on a few years ago. She sang the last chorus in the song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, and sounded just like she did on the record….and she was 90, or so! Still gives me chills, every time I watch it!
February 18, 2014 @ 8:34 pm
wish marty would come to iowa, would like to see him
October 4, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
He was just at Fairfield, IA – Sondheim Center For The Performing Arts on Oct 2. Scheduled to be at Winterset, IA – Courthouse Square on May 23, 2015.
October 4, 2014 @ 2:02 pm
We saw Marty & Co. in St. Louis, MO last night (Oct 3). All acoustic show that was fantastic! They all came out for autographs & pics after the show and were there as long as the fans were. A talented bunch of musicians, but also great group of human beings.
November 15, 2015 @ 9:44 am
I’ve opened for Marty 8 times over my years in music. Was introduced to him by a mutual friend, the great Johnny Western. He is as real and genuine of a person that I know. No smoke, no mirrors. I’m proud to have him as a friend and one of my mentors. Marty is the historian of a way of life, and true American art. My brother and friend, a true hillbilly
February 21, 2016 @ 8:37 am
I watch the Marty Stewart show as often as I can. I am 74 and do not like top forty music. Marty and his crew bring the real stuff. Not many left.
One of my hobbies is gluing beads on bisque fired pottery and bison skulls, when I can get them. Most designs are of Native American. I have one at this time I would be proud to present to Marty. I think it would fit nicely on his TV set. Especially on the wall just to the right of the drummer where the red light is.
November 6, 2017 @ 1:54 pm
Great article but you left out one of the most badass things I know about him. Mavis Staples and her sister gave him a guitar owned by Pops Staples after he spent time in jail for drinking and driving. Reportedly, he hasn’t drank since because if Mavis thought he was worth that then he must be. Mavis considers him to be her little brother. Not much is more badass than that!
April 14, 2022 @ 6:37 am
I don’t have any of Marty’s albums, but l saw him with Connie Smith on Opry Live and he is a genuine caring talented person and he truly is the real deal. His love for Connie shines through. I saw him on the Coffee Series on Circle last night and l loved that he mentioned coming into St. Louis and seeing the Arch.