I had the pleasure of attending a preview for Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart’s American Musical Odyssey at the Autry National Center of the American West. It’s a wonderful exhibition filled with historic items from Marty Stuart’s personal collection. While, naturally, it’s filled with memorabilia from Stuart’ long, illustrious career, there are also a great many items that he has collected from the American roots music scene at large - like a colorful array of Nudie suits, guitars (particularly some classic Johnny Cash guitars) and other fascinating items (such as a set of ties from the Lester Flatt band).
What made this walk-through extra special was that Marty Stuart himself played host. He provided behind-the-exhibit stories, like how Johnny Cash’s grandma sewed some J.C. Penney edging onto a suit after she saw him perform on a show with a more flamboyantly dressed Elvis Presley. He also talks about becoming friendly with Hank Williams’ sister Irene and described how he proclaimed, after meeting singer Connie Smith when he was 12, that he was going to marry her, which is what he ended up doing.
Visitors also can enjoy a good many of Stuart’s anecdotes in this well-annotated exhibit - like the concert where the Lester Flatt band (which a young Stuart was in at the time) shared a bill with the Eagles and Gram Parsons.
As this exhibit amply demonstrates, Stuart should be applauded for having the foresight for collecting, preserving and sharing so much of Country Music’s past. This show is a must-see for anyone interested not only in American music but 20th Century American culture as a whole.
Sparkle & Twang: Marty Stuart’s American Musical Odyssey runs at the Autry National Center of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles) from April 16 through August 23. Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and $3 for kids 3-12. For more information, visit www.AutryNationalCenter.org.