Marty Stuart grew up adoring the fabled stars of classic country music. The guitar whiz kid, who joined bluegrass pioneer Lester Flatts band at age 13, has never been ashamed of his hero-worshiping ways.
But who would have predicted that Stuart, at age 48, would remain obsessed with all things classic country?
Consider his spate of current projects. Last month, Stuart - who plays a rare solo show at Johnny Ds in Somerville Wednesday - released Compadres, an anthology of his duets with such legends as his former boss Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Merle Haggard. The same day that Compadres hit the racks, Porter Wagoners Stuart-produced comeback album, Wagonmaster, was released on the oh-so-hip Anti label.
Stuart also has just published a second book of his photos of country stalwarts, Country Music: The Masters. And Stuarts collection of country music artifacts is the basis of the Tennessee State Museums current exhibit, Sparkle and Twang.
Its the first public showing of my private collection of country music treasures, Stuart said earlier this week from his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
His collection, originally housed in Stuarts bedroom, has grown to 20,000 items, including costumes, manuscripts, instruments, recordings, photos and films.
The old country stars were left unheralded, Stuart said. I felt I had enough time in my life and enough fire in my gut to take care that the old ones got their recognition.
Some might say that Stuart is so enamored of classic country stars that he married one. In 1997, following the breakup of his marriage to Cashs daughter Cindy, he wed Connie Smith, the 1960s hit-maker.
The first photo I ever took in my life was of Connie Smith, when she came to sing in my town in Mississippi, Stuart said. I told my mama on the way home that I was going to marry her! I saw Connie perform and destiny just walked up to me and winked at me.
Stuart feels his musical fate was also laid out for him by age 12.
The first two records I ever owned were Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, he said, and the only two (long-lasting) jobs Ive ever had were with Lester and Johnny.
Stuart hasnt had a trouble-free trip to country stardom. Along with six gold albums and four Grammys, hes had two drunken-driving incidents, the most recent in 2004. Once known for hard-partying, Stuart is now a born-again Christian. But in conversation he is more likely to exalt the gods of country than Jesus.
Its almost a spiritual thing with me, he said.
The multi-instrumentalists solo show at Johnny Ds Wednesday is one of only a handful of such outings hes ever attempted.
The idea is frightening, but thats why I like it, Stuart said.
By Daniel Gewertz