Born in Mississippi in 1958, country music singer Marty Stuart got his start in Johnny Cash's back-up band in 1979. He soon enjoyed solo success as well as hits performing with other country musicians, including Travis Tritt and Willie Nelson. He has received multiple Grammy Awards for his work.
Musician, singer, songwriter. Born on September 30, 1958, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A legendary country music performer, Marty Stuart received his first guitar not long after he learned to walk. He became such a strong musician that he turned professional at the age of 12, spending the summer touring with the Sullivan Family, a bluegrass-gospel group, as a mandolin player. This summer adventure proved to be a life-changing event. "I felt like I had found my life. I felt like I had run away with the circus. But when school started . . . I hated it. I didn't fit in any more," Stuart reflected later.
Before long, Stuart dropped out of school to play mandolin with Lester Flatt and his band The Nashville Grass. The 13-year-old musician spent years on the road, performing at bluegrass festivals and concerts. During his time with Flatt, Stuart met a diverse group of musical greats, including Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Chick Corea, the Eagles, Emilylou Harris, and Bob Dylan.
The year after Flatt's death in 1979, Stuart joined Johnny Cash's back-up band as a guitarist. He also worked on solo projects, releasing his second album, Busy Bee Cafe, in 1982. The bluegrass recording featured performances by Earl Scruggs, Johnny Cash, and Doc Watson, and it earned strong reviews.
Around this time, Stuart married Cash's daughter Cindy, but he parted ways with his father-in-law in 1985 in order to focus on his own career. Exploring the sounds of rockabilly, he found some success with the 1986 album Marty Stuart and scored his first hit with the song "Arlene." Stuart also worked on his stage persona, choosing to wear fancy western-style suits on stage and to tease his hair. In his personal life, he began to make changes, too. He and his wife Cindy divorced in 1988.
Returning with 1989's Hillbilly Rock, Stuart reached the top 10 of the country music charts with the album's title track. He again won over country music fans with 1991's Tempted, which featured "Burn Me Down" and "Little Things." Partnering with Travis Tritt, Stuart won his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Collaboration for "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'" in 1992. The pair toured together and scored another big hit with their "This One Is Going to Hurt (For a Long, Long Time)" that same year.
In 1993, Stuart won another Grammy Award—this time for Best Country Instrumental Performance. He joined forces with Chet Atkins, Vince Gill, and several other country stars for the song "Red Wing." His next solo album Love and Luck (1994) proved to be a commercial disappointment, but he remained a popular country star. Stuart hosted the first of many Marty Party television specials that year.
Busy as ever, Stuart recorded duets with Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, B. B. King, and Travis Tritt. He also worked behind the scenes, serving as producer for songs by George Ducas, Pam Tillis, and Jerry and Tammy Sullivan. Stuart worked on film soundtracks for a diverse range of movies from the Steven Seagal action flick Fire Down Below (1997) to the Western drama All The Pretty Horses (2000). For All The Pretty Horses, he received a Golden Globe nomination.
In 1999 Stuart released The Pilgrim, a concept album that told the story of a man, brokenhearted and suicidal, who sets off on a journey. Country stars such as Emmylou Harris, Earl Scruggs and Pam Tillis contributed to the project. While it earned some positive reviews, it failed to catch on with music buyers.
Working again with Scruggs, Stuart earned a Grammy Award in 2001 for Best Country Instrumental Performance for their version of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Legendary banjo player Scruggs had recorded the song decades earlier when he teamed up with Lester Flatt. The following year, Stuart formed his own backup band called the Fabulous Superlatives. He recorded several albums with them, including 2003's Country Music and 2006's Live at the Ryman. The group has also toured with the likes of Merle Haggard and the Old Crow Medicine Show. Stuart is currently at work on his next album.
In addition to being a performer, Stuart is an avid collector of country music memorabilia. Some of these items were featured in the 2007 exhibition Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey at the Tennessee State Museum. He also served as president of the Country Music Foundation from 1994 to 2001.
An accomplished photographer, Stuart had some of his works published in the 1999 collection Pilgrims: Sinners, Saints, and Prophets. His images were also featured in 2007's Country Music: The Masters, in which Stuart shared his memories from his long career.
Stuart is married to country singer Connie Smith. The couple has been married since 1997.
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