Gary Stewart’s roller-coaster life featured some amazing highs and despondent lows. The Kentucky native released more than a dozen albums and nearly 30 singles. While he charted all over the place, he only landed one Top 10 album — 1975’s Out Of Hand.
But while his commercial success was tepid compared to other hitmakers of the time, that album earned him unanimous praise. Out Of Hand, for many, makes the list of top 100 country albums ever.
And yet, in another turn on Stewart’s ride, it yielded only one No. 1 single. On May 10, 1975, “She’s Acting Single” climbed to the top of the charts. That song, however, keeps him in the minds of country lovers even today. “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” represents just about everything right with honky-tonk music right smack dab in the middle of another pop-country renaissance.
Stewart’s classic, twangy vibrato yodeling out the tail of woe and heartbreak still rings true to many today.
Though he never replicated the success of that single, Stewart trekked on to a successful career all through the 1980s. That included a minor 1977 hit, “Ten Years Of This.” The tune had one huge fan in particular. In the 1990s, Bob Dylan once drove to meet Stewart and tell him how much he loved the song.
But for every critical smash, Stewart’s coaster of a career dipped to a new low. He eventually embraced his more rockabilly side after battling “too rock for country” and “too country for rock” complaints. A gifted guitar player, Stewart spent most of the rest of his career touring smaller venues. He found a good home at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, in particular.
Stewart lost his son to suicide in the late 1980s and spun further into alcoholism and drug use. By the time he cleaned up in the early 2000s, his beloved wife succumbed to pneumonia just one day before Thanksgiving in 2003.
A few days later, the distraught Gary Stewart took his own life with a gunshot wound to the neck at the age of 59. But while he never experienced the charmed career of some of his contemporaries, Stewart left behind a trove of music that remained unmistakably his own.