You’ll be hard pressed to present another country music personality more responsible for helping to save country music in the last quarter century than Marty Stuart. Though he never had the big hits as some of his contemporaries or slayed stadiums full of adorning fans, his work both in the public eye and behind-the-scenes to preserve the legacy of country music is unparalleled from a performer, and is well-appreciated by the country music faithful.
When the recent inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame were announced in March with superstar country duo Brooks & Dunn being inducted via the Modern Era category, credible sources said that Marty Stuart, along with The Judds, Keith Whitley, Tanya Tucker, and The Gatlin Brothers were among the final ballot nominees being considered for the spot.
Being named the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Artist-in-Residence doesn’t preordain induction into country music’s most honored and exclusive institution (and HOF geeks love to drive this point home), but it certainly did for a handful of the 15 artists who’ve filled that spot previously, including “Cowboy” Jack Clement, who was the first ever Artist-In-Residence, Marty Stuart’s wife Connie Smith, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, and others. The spot has also been filled by musicians who are not in the Hall of Fame at this point, but ones who you wouldn’t be surprised getting in sometime soon, including Guy Clark and Rosanne Cash. In the last couple of years, the Artist-In-Residence recipients have veered more contemporary, with Jason Isbell filling the spot in 2017, and Miranda Lambert in 2018.
But now it’s Marty Stuart’s turn, who along with the year-long honor, will perform three exclusive performances with his backup band The Fabulous Superlatives at the Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater on September 11th, 18th, and the 25th. Expect ample guest appearances from many of Marty Stuart’s friends, including many who’ve appeared on his annual Late Night Jam during CMA Fest over the years. The appearances will also coincide with the airing of the Ken Burns-produced 8-part Country Music documentary on PBS, of which Marty Stuart plays the major roll as lead curator through country music’s storied history.
Many of the artifacts that adorn the Country Music Hall of Fame come from Marty Stuart’s personal collection, which is one of the biggest in private ownership. In the 80’s and 90’s when country music had its big commercial wave, entire wardrobes of vintage country music stage clothing, as well as reams of paperwork and boxes of mementos were ending up in thrift stores and dumpsters around Music City, with Marty rescuing many of these pieces of history and preserving them for the future. His collection has become so large, he is planning to open the Congress of Country Music in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi to house and present all the artifacts, along with holding workshops, concerts, and symposiums. Stuart has also spent years photographing country legends and important places to further preserve the music’s legacy.
“Marty Stuart has made country music his life’s work, and I cannot imagine the music without him,” says Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “He has preserved its history, photographed its legends and performed its music with integrity. Marty’s music reaches beyond traditional country, drawing influence from genres including Americana, southern gospel and hillbilly rock. Marty’s residency will no doubt deliver truly unique and memorable experiences.”
Marty Stuart is a country music lifer. He began performing at the age of 12 with the Sullivan Family Gospel Singers, and then did stints as an understudy in the bands of Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash. In the early 90’s he achieved his greatest commercial success, charting eight Top 20 hits, including “Hillbilly Rock” and “Tempted,” and toured regularly with Travis Tritt under their “No Hats” name. In the early 2000’s when the hits stopped coming he formed the Fabulous Superlatives, which currently includes “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan, drummer Harry Stinson and, Chris Scruggs. Marty Stuart owns four Grammy Awards among other accolades, and his 2017 record Way Out West was highly acclaimed, including being nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year.
“The ultimate destination in the world of country music is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” Marty Stuart says about the distinction. “The Hall of Fame is our greatest treasure chest and a place that represents the heart and soul of our culture. Some of my most cherished memories are of events I’ve either witnessed or performed in at the Hall of Fame. It’s an honor to be the artist-in-residence this September. Hopefully, at the end of the run, the past, present and the future of country music will have been touched upon, leaving in its wake three nights of magic to be remembered at the Hall of Fame.”
If there was ever a performer in country music history who may have not racked up the monster sales and charting numbers that normally qualify you for induction into the Hall of Fame rotunda, but deserves induction for the preservation work they’ve done for the genre as a whole, it would be Marty Stuart. Hopefully the Artist-In-Residence distinction moves him one step closer to that reality.
Tickets for the Artist-In-Residence shows go on sale to the public Friday, April 19, 2019, at 10 a.m. Eastern.