Marty Stuart, 38, In Trial Marriage With Country Legend, 55

This appeared in The Star - January 7, 1997

Country star Marty Stuart has set up home with Nashville legend Connie Smith--who is 17 years older than him. Marty, whose string of hits include Tempted and The Whiskey Ain't Workin', was only 6 when Connie had her No. 1 country hit Once A Day. Now he's 38--and she's 55.

But friends say the age difference doesn't matter because they're really in love. "They've moved in together in Nashville," says a friend of Marty, one of the most eligible bachelors in Music City. "It wouldn't be surprising at all to see them tie the knot sometime soon."

"Connie is a stunning looking lady with gorgeous eyes and a great figure. Gals half her age have tried like mad to snag Marty, but she's the one who got him. They've had tongues wagging for a long time because they're seen out together. They used to tell everyone they were just friends but everyone know that just won't wash anymore. And now they don't care what people say--they're in love and not ashamed to show it."

The pair met when he was an awe-struck 11 year old attending her concert in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Marty's mom struck up a friendship with the songbird and Connie calls her "one of my best friends in the whole world."

After a string of Top 10 country hits through the early 1970s, Connie retired from the music business for about 10 years to raise her five children, now age 16 to 33. She returned to the Grand Ole Opry in the mid-80s and has been a regular there every since. Connie decided to begin recording again in 1994 and enlisted Marty's services.

But more than just beautiful music sprouted from that partnership. "The two of them have an emotional bond because of their family friendship," says the source. "Marty and Connie took things very slowly. They were crazy about each other as friends, but they hesitated showing their true feelings. Before, they avoided photographers but now they happily pose for photos holding hands. They make a great couple, even if it is a little unorthodox."

Connie is coy when talking about her relationship with Marty. She says, "Marty and I have been writing songs and spending time together for over two years. If anyone can do that without loving Marty Stuart, I have no idea in this world who that could be.

"You just might see me anywhere he's at or him anywhere I'm at. We have a lot in common and we enjoy each other. You couldn't be around Marty very long without loving him to death."

Still there's a lot of backbiting around Nashville toward the couple, especially from women who are jealous Connie reeled in one of country music's biggest catches. "Marty's a big country music historian--he collects all kinds of old artifacts and memorabilia," says a source. "The joke going around is that Connie is another ancient relic for his collection. But the joke's on them--Marty is simply wild about her."

Marty, who was previously married to Johnny Cash's daughter Cindy and the three-times-wed Connie are even talking about making their relationship more permanent, says the source. "They would love to get married--about the only consideration is children. Since Connie's kids are all grown up and Marty doesn't have any, it's a factor. But right now anyway, they only have eyes for each other."

By Roger Hitts

[Note: Marty and Connie were married July 8, 1997]

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