Watch Marty Stuart on 'Porter Wagoner Show' in 1973 - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Watch Marty Stuart’s 1973 Debut on ‘Porter Wagoner Show’

Fourteen-year-old plays mandolin, sings and nearly loses his cool alongside bluegass legend Lester Flatt

On December 8th, 1945, as members of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs performed together on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time, signaling a sea change not only for bluegrass but for country music. As a duo, Flatt & Scruggs would perform and record together for the next two decades, until creative differences severed their partnership in early 1969. Chief among those differences was the musical direction of their band as bluegrass and country acts began to incorporate elements of rock & roll into their sound, which Scruggs would do while Flatt’s new group, Nashville Grass, remained rooted in traditional bluegrass.

Along with some of the members of Flatt & Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys whom Flatt retained in Nashville Grass, he soon added a 13-year-old mandolin player and singer from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Marty Stuart had been performing with gospel singers Jerry and Tammy Sullivan when he was recruited to officially join Nashville Grass in September 1972 at a show in Glasgow, Delaware. One month later, he was taking part in his first recording session with the group at RCA’s historic Studio B in Nashville.

The following year, Stuart, whose voice was on the verge of changing, would be front-and-center when the group appeared on the syndicated Porter Wagoner Show. Sporting a cowboy hat and long black hair (this was the early Seventies, after all), Stuart adds mandolin and echoing harmony to the traditional “Bluebirds Are Singing for Me,” which also includes a tremendous fiddle break from the great Paul Warren. Around the mark, the young musician rejoins Flatt in front but a few seconds in finds himself amused by something and nearly misses his cue to sing.

As a bonus, the above clip also features two additional performances, the first of which finds Stuart in a musical battle with musician Haskell McCormick on “Feudin’ Banjos,” the tune that would inspire “Dueling Banjos,” a hugely popular instrumental at the time this show was taped, thanks to its use in the film, Deliverance. While it’s really a mandolin-banjo stand-off here, it’s a spectacular showcase for Stuart’s young talent. He’s absent from the next performance, however, which spotlights McCormick, along with guitar legend Curly Seckler on a tune called “Country Boy.” As the clip ends Flatt introduces his band members, calling Stuart “the little-bitty one” and also noting Dobro player Charlie Nixon.

Lester Flatt died in 1979 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with Earl Scruggs in 1985. Marty Stuart released his latest album, Way Out West, earlier this month.

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