April 21, 2009 Marty Stuart is one of Nashvilles most enthusiastic ambassadors, and part of his appreciation for the city was built by hearing the music that came from the Grand Ole Opry when he was growing up in Philadelphia, Miss.
The Delta is a crossroads of styles, and Marty was indoctrinated with gospel, R&B, blues and folk, but it was the country music that appeared on WSMs Opry broadcasts every Saturday that would define him.
"Its the [music] that touched my heart the deepest," he said Sunday when he was inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame. "It talked to me. I saw it in the peoples faces. I heard it in the train whistles, I heard it in every song and every aspect of life. It was country music that I loved the very most."
At age 13, Marty took his first weekend trip to Nashville. The bus station at the time was just a couple blocks from where Sundays ceremony was held, and he was slated to meet up with Roland White, who played mandolin in Lester Flatts band, when he arrived. Roland, unfortunately, wasnt there when Marty stepped off the bus.
"The only person I saw, there was a guy standin over a manhole, there was steam comin out," Marty recalled. "He played the harmonica. He was playin Pins And Needles In My Heart by Roy Acuff. He was almost like a ghost. And Roland wasnt there, and its the most alone Ive ever felt in my life. I had my suitcase and my mandolin case, and he wasnt there. So I thought, Well, maybe Im in the wrong place. So I went around the corner and came face to face with that old building right there, the Ryman Auditorium."
It was, for Marty, an amazing site. Hed heard so much music from that venue. Even when it was quiet, the Ryman seemed to make an impact.
"I remember sittin on my Grandma Stuarts knee," he said, "when Paty Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins died in a plane crash out there in Camden. They started the show with a moment of silence, and from 400 miles away, I could hear people cryin. I could feel their hearts. It touched me. I wanted to be a part of that story."
With that first trip to Nashville, Marty became a part of it almost instantly.
"Lester Flatt gave me a job that weekend," Marty laughed, "and I havent been home or been to bed since!"
Marty not only played the Opry as a member of Lesters band, he went on to become a member himself to know Roy Acuff, and to marry Opry star Connie Smith. Connie will be on the Tuesday edition of the show this week at the Grand Ole Opry House in a performance dedicated to songs of faith. Others in the lineup include John Conlee, Bill Anderson, the Whites and the Grascals. Marty will be back on the Opry Friday and Saturday, along with Sunny Sweeney, Cherryholmes and Lorrie Morgan.