An established artist in his own right, Marty Stuart is well known for his love and reverence for country music and the legendary artists who came before him. The singer, songwriter and musician extraordinaire was a child prodigy who was so talented on guitar and mandolin that he played with Lester Flatt and made his Grand Ole Opry debut at age 13. Over the next five decades, the 5-time GRAMMY winner has become an avid country music historian and collector, building the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world.
In less than two years, more than 20,000 items, including Johnny Cash’s first black performance suit, the first instrument Hank Williams Sr ever played, the boots Patsy Cline was wearing the day her plane crashed in Tennessee, famous guitars, handwritten lyrics, and more. much more, will be on display at Marty Stuart’s Country Music Congress in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi.
As Stuart played his 19e “Late Night Jam” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the event held each year on the Wednesday night before the annual CMA Nashville Festival, he used it to help raise money for the resort through ticket sales , donations and a silent auction before the show .
He also showcased some of his collection, inviting his famous friends to play guitars once owned by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, AP Carter and George Jones.
Singer Lainey Wilson played a guitar that belonged to both Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
“The guitar originally belonged to Hank Williams,” Stuart told him. “Hank Jr gave it to Johnny Cash, and Johnny Cash gave it to me.”
Stuart recalled fond memories of Cash playing guitar on that same stage when Cash did his live TV show on ABC over five decades ago.
“He was twirling around with this guitar around his neck and saying, ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’.”
Wilson noted that she couldn’t quite believe she was holding that same guitar.
“I could pass out,” she said. “Someone just grab the guitar, don’t grab me.”
Wilson remembers growing up listening to his own father play Hank Williams songs as the family gathered. Calling it a “very special moment,” she then launched into her rendition of “Lost Highway.”
Stuart’s private collection includes a number of items that once belonged to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. (As a musician, Stuart joined Cash’s band when he was just 21.)
Some of Stuart’s many artifacts were displayed at a private event in East Nashville ahead of his “Late Night Jam”. Her extensive collection ranges from outfits to handwritten lyrics to personal items and more.
On his Wednesday night show, Stuart played a guitar previously owned by George Jones as he accompanied his wife, the legendary Connie Smith, as she sang Merle Haggard’s ‘The Fugitive’.
“George and Merle Haggard were good friends,” Stuart said. “It’s for Haggard on George’s guitar.”
“With Marty Stuart playing him,” Smith added. “You can’t beat that.”
Later that night, Emmylou Harris played a guitar formerly owned by AP Carter, as she and Stuart sang a new song they wrote together called “Three Chords & The Truth”.
Stuart’s “Late Night Jams” with his band, The Fabulous Superlatives, have always been a celebration of great songs and exceptional musicianship, and the tradition has continued with performances by artists like Marcus King and Billy Strings. .
But this year’s added touch of honoring a piece of history with historic guitars and a glimpse of Marty Stuart’s Country Music Congress made it even more special. And while work is still underway to build and complete the Mississippi complex, the concert hall component there – the Ellis Theater – will “open” this year.
Stuart even extended a special invitation to one of his guests, rising country blues guitarist Jontavious Willis, to join him for Stuart’s first show at the theater on Dec. 8.e.
The goal of the Marty Stuart Country Music Congress is to both honor and preserve the rich history of country music, and at the same time, help it continue to move forward. It’s a long-held dream about to come true.