This week American Routes Shortcuts brings you country music’s most beloved and unconventional couple. Marty Stuart grew up in Philadelphia MS learning old time country music. He’d mastered mandolin by age 12. As a kid, he loved listening to the well-respected Connie Smith sing at the Grand Ole Opry. Marty and Connie told host Nick Spitzer how they first met.
MS: Our local radio station was WHOC and they made the announcement one afternoon that coming to the 1970 Choctaw Indian Fair was Grand Ole Opry star, pretty Ms. Connie Smith and they played, you know, her song. And I went tearing through the house to find my mother because Connie was Mama’s favorite singer.
Well, we had that record up there called Ms. Smith goes to Nashville. And I would leave on the stereo so I could go by and look at her picture cause I thought she was so pretty. The day of the show, me my sister got our picture made with Connie. And I got her autograph and talked to her musicians. But on my way home that night, I told my mom I was going to marry her. I think I was 12, how old were you?
MS: Yeah, so there you go.
NS: It seemed like a plan that worked out
MS: It worked out fine!
CS: I didn’t know this though, for about 25 years.
NS: I was going to say, what do you remember about that occasion?
CS: I remember him coming up on stage at 12 years old, talking to Weldon Myrick, the steel guitar player that played on most of my records, and he was asking Weldon what gauge strings and all about the steel. And I thought, “how does this kid know to even ask these questions and all” and that’s the reason I even remembered meeting him that day.
MS: I had Mama take me and buy me a new shirt so Connie would notice me.
NS: Did Connie ever go off your radar after you made that photograph with her when you were 12? I mean did you ever forget about Connie Smith?
MS: Not really, because she- first of all, being around the Grand Ole Opry, it’s kind of a big family. When Flatt and Scrugg’s broke up, I had never met ‘em yet, but it was like we had lost a piece of our family. And Connie Smith was just a part of our life. And as the years went on at the Opry, you know, I would see her in the hallway, never really had a conversation or anything with her, cause maybe she was always a little unapproachable to me, you know? But one day, there was some silly event- a celebrity softball game.
CS: I was the third baseman at celebrity softball.
MS: And I sat down next to Connie back stage, before the event started and we just had a wonderful conversation. That was the first time I ever felt like I really connected with Connie.
CS: We met and started talking about music. Musically I was really impressed with what he knew and what he talked about. So when I saw him at the Opry after that, I asked him if he’d be interested in working with me. And he said yes, and the first thing he did was pick up the phone and call Harlan Howard and three days later we got together and wrote the first song- we wrote it with Harlan and after that we’ve probably written 40 or 50 songs,
MS: Yeah, so in reality Nick, this relationship is founded on a shuffle. A Harlan Howard shuffle.
CS: That’s right!
MS: You know, the bottom line of every bit of this and what I did recognize in all the midst of it, is it’s a wonderful thing when you’ve been rambling and gambling and roving and crazy for many years and when you’re heart finds a home. And when your heart finds a home, that’s when life starts. And that was what happened when I met Connie.
CS: And I love his hair!
For more Musical Duos, tune into American Routes Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 6, or at americanroutes.org.