BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – He’s not from Bakersfield, and he probably has never slept in this city more than a couple of days at a time, but Marty Stuart has all the necessary bonafides to qualify as one of ours.
The follically gifted mandolin prodigy grew up at the knee of bluegrass icon Lester Flatt, refined his game backing up then-father-in-law Johnny Cash and harmonized with his good friend Merle Haggard.
So, when Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives take the stage at the Fox Theater – a place he’s come to know pretty well now – it will be a homecoming of sorts, for him and for the expected packed house.
“Well, Bakersfield’s a part of my heart,” Stuart said Wednesday afternoon, about four hours before his show. “A lot of towns, you know, I have a relationship with. But Bakersfield is at the core of my heart. And it’s the sounds and the people that made those sounds and the songs that came from here, and the atmosphere around here. You know, the first song that I ever learned to play on the guitar was ‘Tiger by the Tail.’ So there you go.”
Stuart, who grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, is a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist whose repertoire ranges from bluegrass and rockabilly to alt-country and blues. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also the former president of the Country Music Association, a prolific writer and a music historian – all of which, taken together, ought to qualify him for a PhD in the Bakersfield Sound.
“About a month ago in Mississippi, at about 10 o’clock at night, (I was) driving down the road where our old house is, and ‘Momma Tried’ came on the radio,” Stuart said. “And it was just like the heavens opened up. I went, ‘That’s what it’s about right there.’ It went straight to my heart. And those songs, and the people who made them and wrote and played them and sang them, they’re timeless.”
Stuart’s aptly named Fabulous Superlatives, in their 22nd year together, are some of the best players of the genre – Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Harry Stinson on drums and, since 2015, Chris Scruggs on bass and steel guitar.
At 65, his immaculate bouffant now gray, Stuart is still having a great time celebrating his bluegrass upbringing – and with a little encouragement, the trademark sound of one of his honorary hometowns.