NASHVILLE When the new $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates its grand opening Thursday (May 17), the world will be privy to priceless artifacts, interactive experiences and films. Among its offerings will be an exhibit featuring part of the vast personal collection belonging to country artist Marty Stuart.
Stuart who is also president of the institution's Board of Officers and Trustees previewed several of the artifacts recently at the museum.
Among the items on display were Hank Williams' fringed purple shirt, Williams' handwritten lyrics for "I Saw the Light," Jerry Lee Lewis' black patent-leather boots, Patsy Cline's travel case, legendary designer Nudie Cohn's own rhinestone-spangled suit and Lamar Sorrento's portrait of Bill Monroe. These items and many others will be on long-term exhibit at the museum.
Stuart spoke movingly about his desire to help preserve country music's legacy and of his involvement with the Hall of Fame and Museum.
"Every detail about these boots, these suits, these lyrics, it came from somebody's soul," Stuart said. "This building doesn't have a square inch in it that doesn't have soul. It's a perfect setting … and vantage point for country music. It's our treasure chest."
Stuart explained how he originally began to collect and preserve the artifacts comprising his collection. "It started out as a real innocent hobby after I got my job with Lester [Flatt] when I was 13," he said.
The young Stuart who has worked with many country greats over the course of his career continued to preserve the objects he saw around him. When he was in Johnny Cash's band, for example, Stuart would retrieve and store set lists after the Man in Black threw them away.
As his collection eventually expanded to include costumes, instruments and other memorabilia, Stuart became even more dedicated to preserving country's legacy. "It became a mission and a crusade to preserve our heritage and our treasures," he said.
When asked what part of his collection he valued most dearly, Stuart laughed. "Connie Smith," he said with a smile, referring to his wife the country singer.