Recording Career in The 1980s & 1990s
In 1985, Stuart accompanied Johnny Cash to Memphis and played on the "Class of '55" album that also featured Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. At the end of the session Perkins presented him with his guitar.]. Later that year, Stuart left Cash's band and landed a recording contract with Columbia Records. The following year, he released a self-titled album on the label, which produced a Top 20 hit on the Billboard country charts in the song "Arlene." Stuart garnered his first cover story in 1986, appearing in a Mid-South magazine article titled "Nashville's New Hopes.". Also in the article were Vince Gill, Sweethearts of the Rodeo and Lisa Angelle. Although he had a hit on his hands with "Arlene", the album itself didn't sell. Stuart recorded a follow-up album, Let There Be Country, but Columbia failed to release it after Stuart had a heated run-in with the label head over his decision to drop Johnny Cash from the Columbia roster.
His marriage to Cindy Cash ended in divorce in 1988, leading to Stuart's return home to Mississippi. Roland White invited Stuart to rejoin his band as their fiddler and this helped Stuart build his confidence to try again at becoming a singer.
Stuart soon returned to Nashville. He landed a deal with MCA Records in 1989, which was formerly Decca Records. That year, Stuart released his first album on MCA, Hillbilly Rock. In 1990, he finally made it big with the album, when two of his songs from Hillbilly Rock became hits. The title track, "Hillbilly Rock," was his first Top Ten hit on the Country charts. The other song, "Western Girls," just broke the Top 20. The album received great reviews from critics, who compared Marty's work to that of country singer Dwight Yoakam. The album featured a cover version of the Johnny Cash hit "Cry! Cry! Cry!." In 1991, he released another album, Tempted, and the title track became Stuart's first Top-5 hit.
In 1991, Marty co-wrote a song with Travis Tritt called "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'." The song was recorded as a duet on Tritt's 1991 album It's All About to Change, and that became Marty's biggest hit. In 1992, his former record company, Columbia finally released his album Let There Be Country. That same year, Stuart released the album This One's Gonna Hurt You on MCA. The album's title track, a duet with Travis Tritt, was released as a single, and became another Top Ten hit for Stuart. This One's Gonna Hurt You became Marty's first gold album.
Between 1991 and 1992 Marty and Travis went on the road for what they called the "No Hats" tour, referring to "hat acts," as it seemed at the time every mainstream country singer was wearing a cowboy hat on stage. Although Stuart built quite a fans following, follow-up success was hard to find. In 1994, Stuart contributed the song "Up Above My Head / Blind Bartimus" with Jerry Sullivan + Tammy Sullivan to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. The release of his 1994 album Love and Luck turned out to be less successful than he hoped it would be. Three singles were released from the album, but only one ("Kiss Me, I'm Gone") made the Top 40. His record sales began to slip. This led to MCA releasing the album The Marty Party Hit Pack in 1995. This also led to a series of "Marty Party" concerts on the Nashville network. The year 1996 saw the release of another album, Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best. Once again, sales were less than hoped for. Stuart released three singles, with only one reaching the Top 40.
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