Gary Stewart may not be a household name, but he’s revered in honky tonks across the globe. Torchbearers of classic country still sing his songs of heartache and heavy drinking. Dubbed the “King of the Honky Tonks,” Stewart’s trembling voice came to define the music and spirit of the dive bars he frequented.
Stewart found success with a string of singles in the 1970s, such as “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” “Out of Hand” and “Drinkin’ Thing.” But the singer was more interested in playing smokey bars than staying at the top of the country charts. Like the honky tonkers before him, Stewart lived out the songs he sang and experienced the despair that went along with the jukebox weepers.
Stewart met a tragic end in 2003, but fans will now have a chance to take a glimpse into the life of the honky tonk king. Earlier this week, Stewart’s daughter Shannon posted the trailer for an upcoming untitled documentary about her father. The film, which features conversations with Stewart’s family members, past band members and close friends, will chronicle the icon’s career rise and fall, as well as his forty-year love story with his wife Mary Lou.
“This story has to be told because we need to put closure to it,” Shannon Stewart says in the trailer. “I want to make this documentary and I want to tell the story of Gary Stewart and Mary Lou Stewart because they had a love that people would die for.”
One of Stewart’s earliest hits was “Drinkin’ Thing,” an ode to using alcohol to numb a jealous heart. The song went to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
Though he never recreated his mid-70s chart success, Stewart continued to tour throughout the 80s and 90s, playing at Fort Worth’s Billy Bob’s Texas multiple times a year. The barroom poet even found a fan in Bob Dylan, who was vocal about his love for Stewart’s “Ten Years of This,” a song about a marriage gone cold.
A release date for the documentary has not yet been announced. But, judging by the trailer and Stewart’s captivating life and talent, it’s not one you’ll want to miss.