Longtime Grand Ole Opry member Marty Stuart was profiled on the CBS magazine show Sunday Morning this week, with a spotlight on his mission to preserve country music’s historical treasures.
Stuart, who has collected more than 20,000 artifacts, from Hank Williams’ suits to Patsy Cline’s train case, which he purchased at a Nashville junk shop for $75 in 1980, opened the doors to one of the warehouses north of Music City where some of that memorabilia is stored, sharing the inspiration for what has become a passion project for the past 40 years.
“I thought, ‘This is wrong, this wrong’ Stuart said. “And there’s a bigger mission here. It became my heart to preserve, hang on to, promote and further the culture of country music.” Among other items seen in the profile are Williams’ handwritten lyrics to one of his best-known hits, “Cold, Cold Heart,” and the very first black performance suit worn in the Fifties by Stuart’s longtime friend, neighbor and former father-in-law, Johnny Cash, who would, of course, become known as the “Man in Black.” Chris Stapleton and Stuart’s band, the Fabulous Superlatives, are also featured in the segment.
From his childhood in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Stuart has been a staunchly devoted keeper of country music’s traditions. Joining bluegrass legend Lester Flatt’s band on mandolin at age 13 in 1972, the Grammy-winning musician, photographer, author and archivist announced plans last year for the Congress of Country Music, a multi-use initiative in his hometown. The building will include a museum to display many of the items he has collected through the years, as well as a concert venue and the Marty Stuart Center, an educational facility where students can learn about available careers in the music industry. The project has already been endorsed by the Grammy Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Library of Congress.
Stuart plans to break ground on the Congress of Country Music project in 2021.