July 6, 2009 — When Philadelphia, Miss., celebrates Marty Stuart Day on Thursday, the event will have a huge number of full-circle, personal implications for the honoree.
For starters, the recognition comes as the city erects a sign dedicating Marty Stuart Drive and as the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum opens an exhibit in his honor. Marty's a hometown boy, so the ceremony is truly a case of the city recognizing one of its own.
On top of it, the celebration comes the day after Marty and fellow Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith celebrate their twelfth wedding anniversary. Thursday night, Marty and Connie will perform at the Choctaw Indian Fair, which resonates on its own in his life story. When he was just 11 years old, he saw Connie perform at that same fair and told his mother he would, one day, marry the singer. His mother did n't take the boy seriously, but his prediction did indeed come true.
"If I step outside of the story and look at it, it looks pretty blessed to me," Marty told The South Bend Tribune, reflecting on his life and career. "A lot of the things I had my sights on when I was just a kid, it happened. It has never been easy, and it has never been free. There has always been a lot of work involved, but that is fine with me. It has been a pretty astounding ride, so far."
Among the highlights to date: Marty was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1992. Marty joined Little Jimmy Dickens last month in inducting Montgomery Gentry as the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry, and that moment sort of points to his role as a connective tissue between the genre's history and its current genre-bending tendencies. Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives backed Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry that night on the heavy Southern-rock number "Hillbilly Shoes." But when Marty played his own set, the guitar solos he and Kenny Vaughan played incorporated signature licks from Buck Owens' "Buckaroo" and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Marty doesn't begrudge the current trends at all, but he makes a point of keeping country's traditions alive.
"That is the point of country music that I started from," he said. "I have been all around the room [stylistically] several times, but that is the point where I feel the most at home and I se e the greatest need right now. We really need to care for it and tend to the roots of country music and make sure that it lives on."
One other full-circle aspect to Marty's Mississippi homecoming: When he saw Connie perform back when he was 11, he took her picture before she left the fairgrounds. It was, it turns out, the first time he ever took a photograph. Since then, he's had several books published that feature his photography, including Country Music: The Masters and Pilgrims: Sinners, Saints, And Prophets