From the Publisher
"Overall Stuart has achieved what he sought, and that was to illustrate through its practitioners the richness, beauty, and dignity of this often denigrated art form. Certainly, he ranks high among the masters he celebrates. " - ForeWord
""Musician Stuart, who owns the world's largest private collection of country music memorabilia, serenades the genre's pioneers, stars and culture with this opulent coffee-table book." " - USA Today
""It's clear that Marty Stuart, who has been a successful country musician for nearly 40 years, understands that heart of hick darkness... a vast collection of photographs of country stars (and more)." " - The New York Times Book Review
""Marty Stuart's spectacular photo book is not just a chapter of American history, it's a love letter to the people and music that have helped shape our culture." " - Country Weekly
""There's a wealth of books for country fans in stores this holiday season... Among the most impressive works is Marty Stuart's lovingly collected and poetically remembered gallery of artist photographs..." " - CMT.com
""Stuart's coverage of the greats and near-greats is comprehensive and often very candid, and even his blurred, snapped-on-the run photos have historic value." " - BookPage
"The digital version of Country Music expands the experience with audio integrated with the book's 400 photographs and the inclusion of a never-before-released song by Stuart, also integrated into the text" - Booklist
Read an Excerpt
It was around 2:30 on the Thursday morning of Labor Day weekend 1972 when I first set foot in the city some refer to as the "Athens of the South." I had ridden the bus 430 miles from Philadelphia for what was supposed to be a weekend visit with Roland White. Roland was the mandolin player in Lester Flatt's band. I had met him on the bluegrass festival circuit the previous summer. We had become friends and at the end of the run he had invited me to come to Nashville. He also remarked that he would ask Lester if I could "ride along with them for a show or two."
Labor Day weekend seemed like a good time, as I was beginning the ninth grade and loathing every minute of it. I had just come in from my first season on the touring circuit with the Sullivans where I'd graduated from a crash course in bohemian Pentecostal wanderings. I'd discovered applause, flashy clothes, late nights, adventurous girls, constant motion, money, the Holy Ghost, music, music, and more music and I loved every minute of it. I'd grown accustomed to it. But now that school had started, I had to give up all those things. I felt as though the circus had dropped me off at the edge of town and left me behind.
To entertain myself in class one day, I took a copy of a Country Song Roundup magazine to put inside my book and read. I got lost in a story. My teacher walked up behind me and knocked the books out of my hands. She informed me that if I'd "get my mind off of that garbage and get it onto history" that I might make something of myself. I informed her that I was more interested in making history than learning about it. That remark got me dismissed from school. I went home and called Roland and took him up on his offer for a visit. After some pleading with my family, they finally consented for me to go to Nashville for the weekend.
When I stepped off the bus that morning I was expecting Roland to be there to meet me. He was nowhere in sight. Thirty minutes later he still hadn't arrived. As I waited I couldn't help but notice how dark it was. No moon, no stars, the only movement in the sky was the night birds.
I had always dreamed of coming to Nashville. However, I didn't think I would get here this fast. I wanted to live in the land of rhinestone suits. It was country boy Hollywood, the air castle of the South, a dream factory. I didn't see much glamour before me that night at the bus station, though. Mostly a steady stream of tear-stained travelers who looked as if all their dreams were shattered, coming and going into the abyss of the Greyhound corridors. The first live music I heard in Music City came from a harmonica-playing street performer.
He was standing over a manhole cover with steam forming around him. It gave him a phantom-like presence. He played "Pins and Needles in My Heart" by Roy Acuff and then moved on without saying a word, and not a soul seemed to care.
I was beginning to get anxious as Roland was nowhere to be found. I picked up my bags and walked to the other side of the Greyhound station in hopes that he might be waiting there. He wasn't. What was waiting on me was a vision that I had not counted on seeing. I came face to face with the Mother Church of Country Music - the Ryman Auditorium. Just the sight of the place nearly drove me to my knees. The Ryman represented so much to me.
I'd collected stories about the Ryman. I'd read about Hank Williams encoring his song "The Lovesick Blues" on the Grand Ole Opry nine times one Saturday night. I knew of Johnny Cash dragging the microphone stand across the footlights on one of his bad nights, an incident that got him dismissed from the show. I was aware that on a Saturday night in 1945 a young banjo player from North Carolina named Earl Scruggs auditioned for Bill Monroe in one of the dressing rooms. After Monroe heard him, he was hired. It was from here that Monroe, along with Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise, and Cedric Rainwater, went on to blueprint the music now known as bluegrass.