Marty Stuart Remembers His First Nashville Visit

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Marty Stuart on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry
Photo by Chris Hollo, Hollo Photographics


April 21, 2009 — Marty Stuart is one of Nashville’s 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 WSM’s Opry broadcasts every Saturday that would define him.

"It’s 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 people’s 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 Sunday’s ceremony was held, and he was slated to meet up with Roland White, who played mandolin in Lester Flatt’s band, when he arrived. Roland, unfortunately, wasn’t 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 wasn’t there, and it’s the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life. I had my suitcase and my mandolin case, and he wasn’t there. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’m 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. He’d 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 Stuart’s 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 haven’t been home — or been to bed — since!"

Marty not only played the Opry as a member of Lester’s 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.

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