Marty Stuart has always had an affection for a sparkle in his suits. For almost 50 years, the wizard of mandolin, guitar, and nearly anything with strings has shimmered with talent but has never shied away from a glistening lapel or distinctive appliqué across his back on any one of dozens of stage suit coats. Marty Stuart can thank his sense of history as much as his acquired taste in style. For over 40 years, the musician has preserved what was worn, played, and treasured by giants in Country Music.

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His collection cannot be contained in a single warehouse any longer, and Marty Stuart loves nothing better than to lay his hands on a beloved instrument belonging to a revered artist of the past and play a classic song. The Mississippi native made “Sunday Morning” feel right at home for a January 20 feature, and revealed bigger future plans for his sharing his expansive collection.

Color and shine

It’s not surprising at all that Marty Stuart is among the luminaries chosen to be saluting Del McCoury, who soon turns 80, at the Grand Ole Opry next month.

Stuart will join Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, and McCoury kin, the Travelin’ McCourys, for the tribute. Del McCoury is still one of the most thriving, beloved, and innovative forces in all of bluegrass music. The February 13 event falls after McCoury's February 1 birthday, but being 80 won’t slow down the plans for Delfest 2019 over Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland, Maryland.

Marty Stuart can look back on family photos of himself in diapers playing piano, and the musician was considered a prodigy by 13 when he was recruited by Lester Flatt to become a regular in the legend’s band.

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The singer-songwriter stepped deeper into country music royalty, playing backup for Johnny Cash at 21, and briefly becoming the son-in-law to the man in black during his marriage to Cindy Cash. Cash’s handwritten lyrics to many songs were “given to me” Stuart readily attests, and photos can verify. Many of the brightly colored, jeweled suits that marked the 50s and 60s era in country music could still fit Stuart, known for his neck kerchiefs.

When Stuart discovered Patsy Cline’s hand-carved, wooden train case in a Nashville junk shop in “’80 or ’81” for $75, he felt a calling that almost equaled the creative surge behind songs like “This One’s Gonna Hurt You,” and “Hillbilly Rock” and garnered three Grammys through the 90s.

“This is wrong,” Stuart knew, and he took on a mission to “preserve, hang onto, and promote and further the culture of country music” however he was able. The purpose was a matter of the heart, and his collection soon grew by heaps of rare artifacts.

Beyond the “wearable art” hanging for seemingly miles along the walls, Stuart treasures a handwritten and dated manuscript of “Cold, Cold Heart” by Hank Williams, relating that it has “considerably more charm than an e-mail.”

Stuart also took the last photograph of his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash, just four days before his death in 2003. “He looks like an old president,” suggests the photographer.

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Marty Stuart toured alongside Chris Stapleton last year, and even the seasoned songwriter-before-star was taken aback by his road partner one day. Stapleton noticed that a guitar had the inlay of “Johnny Cash” embedded in the neck. When he asked if the ownership was true, Stewart replied, “it belonged to Johnny, and before that, it belonged Hank Williams, and now it belongs to Marty.”

The appreciation of history has to inspire creation, such as the 2005 “Badlands” album, in which Stuart chronicles the people and life of the old West in rich and respectful form.

Stuart’s archive is valued at $24 million, and the artist plans its permanent move to his home of Philadelphia, MS by 2021, so the ground can be broken for what he hopes will be called “the Congress of country music.”

Marty Stuart is destined to be the eternal Majority Leader of that musical body.