Marty Stuart. Photo courtesy Facebook
Marty Stuart. Photo courtesy Facebook

Ramblin’s Roads: Marty Stuart has been performing locally for almost half a century

Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in this column are those of its author

It’s been so long ago that I don’t remember where I met Marty Stuart for the first time, but it probably
was in the mid-1970s at the Shoal Creek Music Park near Lavonia, Ga., operated by Alton and Bertha Mae Walters.

For sure, it was when Stuart still was touring with Grand Ole Opry legend Lester Flatt; playing mandolin in
Flatt’s Nashville Grass band and singing backup vocals. I do know that almost every time Stuart introduces me to someone that he graciously tells them that I gave him his first national publicity in 1978 with a cover story in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. That’s when Stuart had released his first album,
With A Little Help From My Friends, on the Ridge Runner label.

Don Rhodes’ cover story from September 1978 Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. Photo courtesy Don Rhodes

When Flatt started bringing his Nashville Grass band to festivals in the Augusta area, Stuart would be
playing at those shows with him. Flatt’s guitarist Curly Seckler at that time previously had lived in Augusta and played with a band called the Smoky Mountaineers over WGAC radio station.

Almost a half a century (!) later, Stuart is still coming back to the Augusta area. He will close out the 2022-2023 Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song Series, arranged by The
Morris Museum of Art’s executive director Kevin Grogan, with his band The Fabulous Superlatives at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in the Imperial Theatre. Tickets range from $20 to $50 plus additional
handling fees. Call (706) 722-8341 or visit

He also will be back in Lincolnton for the Little Roy & Lizzy Music Festival for a show on Thursday, May
4, at the Lewis Family Homeplace historic site. “The Superlatives are missionaries,” Stuart has
said. “They’re my fighting partners. They’re my Buckaroos, my Tennessee Three, my Strangers. They’re my
legacy band and have been since Day One.”

Besides Stuart on guitars and mandolin are Kenny Vaughan on lead guitar, Harry Stinson on drums and
Chris Scruggs on upright and electric bass. Scruggs is the grandson of the late banjo king Earl
Scruggs and the son of country music stars Gary Scruggs and Gail Davies.

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Stuart’s big break was joining Lester Flatt’s band at age 13 after spending about a year with a bluegrass
gospel group called The Sullivans. It was through the Sullivans that he met Flatt’s mandolin player Roland
White who connected him with Flatt, formerly of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys band and the later Opry duo Flatt & Scruggs.

He would become Flatt’s mandolinist when White left to join his famous brother, Clarence White, formerly of The Byrds. Stuart would tour nationally with Flatt from 1973 until Flatt’s death in 1979. Lester Flatt set Stuart on the road to country music stardom and his eventual induction into the official cast of the Grand Ole Opry and selection for the Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives. Photo courtesy Marty Stuart’s Facebook page.

But, for the most part, it didn’t change Stuart as the funny, intelligent, talented person who loved
watching The Lewis Family of Lincolnton, Ga., perform at music festivals around Stuart’s hometown of
Philadelphia, Miss.

Almost every time that Stuart has performed in Augusta or Lincolnton over the past decade, he has asked Janis Lewis Phillips, formerly lead vocalist of The Lewis Family, to sing Matthew 24. When Janis and her son, Lewis Phillips, performed on The Marty Stuart Show on cable TV in 2012, Stuart told the viewing audience, “The first live music concert that I ever saw in my life …. my mama took me and my sister to see The Lewis Family Gospel Singers; the First Family of Bluegrass Gospel music. And I fell in love with those people that night. They’ve been my friends ever since.”

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Many country and bluegrass stars have shown an interest in the history of those musical forms, but
Marty Stuart ranks among the most passionate in collecting and preserving musical memorabilia.
Probably he personally owns more musical treasures than any individual outside museums like Nashville’s
Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame building with his collection including clothes of Hank Williams and guitars of artists like Johnny Cash.

Just a few weeks ago in December, Stuart and his band took part in the re-opening of the renovated
historic, 1926-built Ellis Theatre in Stuart’s hometown. The performing center is Phase One of Stuart’s
“Congress of Country Music” legacy, whose name was inspired by “Buffalo Bill” Cody and whose goal is to
unite many different people.

The estimated $40 million project eventually will house Stuart’s immense collection of country music
artifacts and draw visitors from across the nation. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is said to have remarked, “If country music had a president, it would be Marty Stuart.” 

But yours truly is thinking, “Why does he need to be president when he already has been one of the best
ambassadors of country and bluegrass music over the past 50 years?”

Don Rhodes has been a by-line journalist since 1963 writing for his Chamblee, Ga., High School newspaper and two weeklies in Decatur.  He has worked for Morris Communications Co. since joining the Savannah Evening Press in March of 1967.  He also has authored four national books, four regional books, national magazine articles and album notes for several music artists.  

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One response to “Ramblin’s Roads: Marty Stuart has been performing locally for almost half a century”

  1. Kevin Grogan says:

    Thanks for the generous mention of the Morris Museum of Art “Budweiser True Music Southern Soul and Song” series, Don. It’s been our great pleasure to bring distinctively Southern forms of musical expression–Bluegrass, Gospel, Country, Rock, Jazz==to Augusta for 19 years, and we’re already planning a grand and glorious 20th anniversary season that will open in September at the Imperial. Meantime, we’ve got this one, predictably wonderful show yet to go. Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives have been an important part of the series ever since its second season. They have never failed to dazzle the audience here, and that’s exactly what we’re looking toward on Friday, February 10!