Brian Sings "An Empty Glass" made popular by Gary Stewart
Stewart was born in 1945 in the Letcher County, Kentucky town of Jenkins, the son of a coal miner, who moved his family down to the Florida coast when Gary was 12. There he learned to play guitar at the age of 17. Later, he met and married a woman named Mary Lou Taylor, to whom he stayed married for the rest of his life.
He moved to Nashville and recorded a handful of memorable singles for Decca Records, while co-writing with fellow Floridian Bill Eldridge. They generated minor hits for the likes of Nat Stuckey, Jack Greene, Billy Walker and Hank Snow. The real catalyst for Stewart's success was producer Roy Dea, the man who captured the hard-country side of Gary's sound the best.
Dea was a sort of father figure to Gary, and Stewart, a born delinquent, tried in vain to be a good son. Dea helped him secure a recording contract with RCA, although then-A&R man Jerry Bradley wouldn't seal the deal until Gary agreed to cut his hair.
Gary was thirty before he had a top 10 album of his own. His debut album called Out of Hand (1974) was a formidable deadpan triumph, but by the end of the Seventies he had fallen victim to self-consciousness in his singing and writing, as well as some of the vices he documented in his tough honky-tonk hits like Drinking Thing, She's Acting Single and Out of Hand.
During the following years there were more along the same lines such as Whiskey Trip, Brand New Whiskey, I Get Drunk and An Empty Glass. Just about all Stewart's songs were about getting drunk to get over someone, and they were pretty easy to treat as novelty songs, especially if you weren't, yourself, getting drunk to get over someone.
Stewart didn't really fit in anywhere: He wasn't Southern rock, and he wasn't Nashville country, and honky-tonk is, almost by definition, not the sort of stuff that plays well outside a small club. What's more he was, not surprisingly, a heavy drinker, he could be a difficult man, and in time he disappeared. From there, the story goes downhill. In 1980, Stewart was in a car crash that wrecked his back; in 1988 his son Gary Joseph killed himself with a gun.
Stewart continued to tour through the 1990s, playing venues such as Fort Worth's Billy Bob's Texas several times a year. On November 26, 2003, the day before Thanksgiving, his wife of nearly forty years died of pneumonia. Stewart, who had been scheduled to play Billy Bob's three days later, canceled his concert appearances. His friends later told reporters that he was extremely despondent after Mary Lou's death. On December 16, his daughter's boyfriend and Stewart's very close friend Bill Hardman visited Stewart's Fort Pierce, Florida, home to check on his welfare. They found Stewart dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the neck. One might find it difficult to understand what drives someone to take such a drastic irreversible move, but when you feel like the entire word is crashing in on you and you have no where to turn, this seems to be the only way out. Unless you have walked the walk, you can not relate. It is unfortunate, but you can't ridicule Gary.
Gary is sorely missed and his unique, unparalleled style cannot be emulated or learned as his was a natural born talent. At a time when country music has strayed of course, traditional enthusiast strive to hang on to the music and memories of such great legends as Gary Stewart. While he has passed, his unique voice and style will never be silenced or be forgotten. Gary etched his place in country music and now he should be rewarded and honored with induction into the country music hall of fame.
Somewhere between the greed for money and sound judgment, the legends of country music were tossed aside for the outlandish sound they call country music today.
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