Fifteen Years Later: Remembering a Unique, But Forgotten, Country Star

I have a distinct, yet somewhat amorphous, definition of “country music.”

Essentially, my view is that the vast majority of what has been marketed as “country music” after about 1981 or so is really not country music.

instead, it is just corporate product cranked out by people wearing big hats and exhibiting extremely small talent. Yes, there are notable exceptions.

Dwight Yoakum is cool.  But while I appreciate the concept of Garth Brooks, I do find much of his music lacking (and even “The Dance,” which I think is his best song, I view less as country and something that stands alone in its own right.)

I could list a few other names – but I don’t want to wast space here because this is about someone whose heyday ended just as the big-hat corporate schlock era began. He did record some later into the 80s and into the 90s, but he will forever live in the 1970s.

His name was Gary Stewart. I bring him up not just because I occasionally bore people with music I like but because of the concern engendered Saturday night by the disturbing post from

Sunday was the fifteenth anniversary of Gary Stewart taking his own life.

I won’t go into the details of his life and death. For that, try the link to his wikipedia page. I’m here at the moment to point to some great, forgotten music from someone who, in retrospect, just always seemed to me as though he was born at the wrong time.

The 1970s had its own share of corporate schlock country – and the Outlaw Movement (most closely identified with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson) was a response to it. Just listening to Stewart’s music, you’d think that somehow he would be more historically associated with it.

Yet he isn’t. I’ve long thought of him as having the misfortune to have been too young to be Jerry Lee Lewis and too old to be Garth Brooks.

He did have some hits, yet didn’t fit in.  Still, for me, listening to country radio in the 1970s (which was all I was allowed to listen to) he *really* stood out.

Now, there’s no way around one thing: The lyrics to “Flat Natural Born Good-Timin’ Man” are misogynistic. If you can get by that, though, pay attention to the guitar. Nothing else sounded like this on 1970s country radio.

And now, a few more of my favorites of his:

Though there is less electric distortion and more pedal steel on “Back Slider’s Wine,”  there’s still a heavy helping of his distinctive voice.

The first time I ever saw him perform on TV (I forget which show; he did appear once on Austin City Limits, but it was in the early 80s, after he had gone into decline) he was playing his other instrument: the piano. Long before “Stonewall” meant anything to me other than the small town in the Texas Hill Country near the LBJ ranch, there was “Stone Wall (All Around Your Heart)”

And so, seeing the hubbub about Pete Davidson Saturdday and then remembering that Gary Stewart took his own life in December get me to tweeting last night.  This post is a revised form of that Tweet thread.

Thanks for indulging me.

I’ll just close with this thought: If Stevie Nicks warrants being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her solo work then Gary Stewart deserves to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a reply, but don't be a troll. Have a nice day!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s