Stuart and wife, Connie Smith, talk with Choctaw Tribal Chief Phyllis Anderson
Stuart and wife, Connie Smith, talk with Choctaw Tribal Chief Phyllis Anderson
Lacie Wilkerson and Pete Perry were among the Philadelphia natives at the state Capitol last week when Marty Stuart unveiled his plans for a country music museum in his hometown that he announced here almost a year ago.

Perry said that in addition to Stuart’s band putting on a fantastic show in the Rotunda, he was impressed by the draw they were bringing to his hometown.

“It was just an absolutely exciting day at the Capitol,” Perry said about the event after which Gov. Phil Bryant hosted a private reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

He said it was good to see Marty and Connie Smith, Marty’s wife, and it was impressive to see all the people who are behind this project like the Smithsonian.

“I think they have a fantastic operation,” Perry said. “I think it will be a destination for years to come and a major draw for people traveling the Southeast.”

As Stuart’s band played, the compact area of the Rotunda filled up. “It just filled up, people on the balconies and peaking out of hallways,” said Perry, a Republican political consultant and lobbyist who now lives in the Belhaven area of Jackson. “It was great to see one of the many great prides of our hometown entertaining a crowd once a again.”

Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music, with its over 20,000 pieces of historical artifacts, will be “amazing,” not only for Philadelphia but Mississippi as well, said Lacie Wilkerson now of Gluckstadt.

Wilkerson said she was really impressed with the amount of artifacts Stuart had collected over the years which will be on display in the center.

“The press conference was interesting,” she said, noting there were representatives there from the Library of Congress, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian.

“It shows how important this museum is for the state of Mississippi and especially for the Philadelphia,” Wilkerson said.

“Marty chose Philadelphia as the place for the museum, which was his starting point, which is important and amazing. I am just thankful he is doing that. It can bring in a lot of tourism for the city and for the state.”

Wilkerson said Stuart would return to the museum at times for different events.

“When he comes and plays, like he has been doing with the Library of Congress in Washington, it will be a real opportunity for people who don’t know about Marty and who haven’t been able to listen to his music. He can express his knowledge, his experience and his talent going forward.”

At the press conference last week at the state Capitol, Stuart said there could not be a more meaningful location for the Congress of Country Music than downtown Philadelphia.

“Congress means ‘gathering place,’ and that is exactly what we intend to create here,” he said. “The Congress will be a beacon to country music fans, history lovers, and all those invested in the future of American music.”   

Stuart was joined by former Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville,  Sen. Jenifer Branning and Rep. Scott Bounds  Chief Phyllis Anderson of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Rob Stone of the Library of Congress and John Troutman with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Stuart also performed two songs with his band, the Fabulous Superlatives.

Digital renderings of the exterior of the Stuart Center and inside the concert venue were also presented.

Bryant was scheduled to make remarks as well, but was unable to return from Washington, D.C., in time after attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. But he did make it to the reception at the Mansion.

Branning said that she was happy to be there to “celebrate Marty’s successes over the years” and thanked him for “his choice” to bring his collection back to Philadelphia, a place they both call home.

Bounds took the lectern and remembered growing up with Stuart, playing baseball and riding bikes.

 “Marty left us a bright star,” he said.

Bounds recalled playing on a baseball team with Stuart which was coached by Bound’s father.

“I think it was when the historic marker went up on Main Street that I remember my dad looking at it and saying, ‘Thank God Marty can play guitar, because he sure couldn’t play baseball,’” Bounds said to a host of laughter.

“True,” Stuart piped up out of the crowd.

Bounds ended by thanking Stuart for bringing his enormous collection to Philadelphia.

“You could have chosen any place in America,” Bounds said. “Thank you.”

Chief Anderson told those in attendance that Stuart and his wife Connie Smith were “friends of the Tribe.”

She thanked Stuart for being a vocal proponent of his hometown and county.

“I want to thank Marty for his efforts to bring this museum to his homeland, our homeland,” Anderson said. “I think this will have a wonderful impact on the county, the state, as well our tribe. I want to congratulate him on all his many successes on behalf of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.”

Stuart’s collection of country music artifacts is said to be the largest private collection of its kind in the world.

“I began collecting as part of a crusade to save and carry forward country music culture,” Stuart said. “It was a job worth undertaking because it touched my heart. It is my hope that all who come to the Congress of Country Music will be moved by these artifacts.”  

Stuart told members of the media after the press conference that throughout the years of performing and collecting he has made many contacts and hopes to be able to “pick up the phone” to host exhibits curated from other collections, just as he hopes to continue to lone items from his collection for exhibits across the country and the world.

The Marty Stuart Center is endorsed by the GRAMMY Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Library of Congress. The center will focus on using music to inspire learning, critical thinking, and self-expression.

Stone said that the Library of Congress had just completed a project, digitally archiving and preserving countless pieces of audio and video from his collection.

“We have started a series of presentations and performances we are calling the Marty Stuart Session,” Stone said. “I understand it has been the same kind of thing you will see in Philadelphia when this museum opens. This is something I can’t help but be excited to visit one day.”

Troutman said that Stuart has taken his team at the Smithsonian into “deep dives” of country music and Americana culture. He called Stuart a leading music historian, collector, curator and photographer.

“I think it is wonderful that wherever Marty’s journey continues to take him, it is always grounded here in Mississippi,” Troutman said.