RFD-TV original The Marty Stuart Show served as a platform for both Stuart’s band, The Fabulous Superlatives, and a means for the show’s namesake to give back to the music he loves. As a former bandmate of Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, Stuart lived a lot of history. What he missed he makes up for with what has to be one of the largest private collections of country and Western music memorabilia.
As an undeniably gifted and quick-witted showman, Stuart was the right host to gather and lead a mix of legends, session players and contemporary talents. The end result was like Hee Haw with better jokes.
On each episode, you know you’ll at least get to enjoy the talents of Stuart, drummer Harry Stinson, guitarist Kenny Vaughan and, depending on when the show was filmed, either Paul Martin or Chris Scruggs on bass. You also get a heaping helping of legendary announcer Eddie Stubbs, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band banjo player Leroy Troy and Stuart’s wife, hall of famer Connie Smith.
Across its lengthy run (2008-2014), the show hosted way too many great talents to make this a definitive list. Legendary pickers like Stuart Duncan, Bela Fleck, Paul Franklin, Tim O’Brien and Buck Trent have jammed with Stuart and his supporting cast. There’s also been more contemporary Nashville stars from the ’90s (Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis, Martina McBride) and some of this century’s best-loved singer-songwriters (Hank Williams III, Sturgill Simpson, Brandy Clark, Pokey Lafarge).
The show also hosted plenty of legendary country singers. Some of them might not have been on national television again outside of Stuart’s ongoing mission to educate and entertain fans of country and American roots music. This quick list should give an idea of who all’s dropped by the Marty Party for a porch-picking session.
One-third of Stuart’s early rock meets surf guitar meets honky-tonk style can be credited to artists like Eddy. The “Rebel Rouser” guitarist should be a familiar name to county fans–he was Jessi Colter’s first husband.
A national treasure and a country music expert on Stuart’s level, Haggard made rare late career TV appearances on the show in 2010 and 2013. The first time around, The Hag put on a show with a moving rendition of “Working Man’s Blues.”
Jackson made multiple visits to the studio over the years. He’s the best example of an overlooked living legend given his due, and some TV time, by Stuart. Other less-likely 21st century guests include Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery.
Long before Stuart practically became a Byrd, the band’s famed 12-string guitarist joined forces with the Fabulous Superlatives. This episode reminds us that the Laurel Canyon crowd dug old country music, too.
Seeing the Red-Headed Stranger joke (and if they’re into that kind of thing, toke) with his musical predecessors is old hat. Still, it’s pretty surreal to see one of the most recognizable American celebrities drop by Stuart’s humble television abode.
Like Nelson, it’s never odd to see Parton on the small screen. Still, anything Dolly-related is worth celebrating. Also, the 2010 episode made for one of the few times that Stuart hosted a better all-around performer than himself.
Even with all the star power that graced the show’s makeshift bluegrass barn stage, Stuart never seemed quite as giddy as he did rubbing shoulders with a fellow Mississippi native.
Russell, a famed studio musician turned genre-defiant solo artist, revisited his country persona, Hank Wilson, during a 2014 episode. During his stay, he sang “Heartbreak Hotel” with Stuart. The attached video shows Russell’s prior collaboration with Stuart and Stinson.
Stuart was pretty much raised by bluegrass royalty, hitting the road with Lester Flatt at a young age. Flatt’s longtime musical partner–and future Fabulous Superlative Chris Scruggs’ grandpa–set a high standard for dream collaborations when he appeared on episode two way back in 2008.
The “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” singer’s 2010 appearance has a special place in Marty Stuart Show history. It ended up being her final televised appearance before her 2012 passing.