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Gary Stewart

While much of what passes for contemporary country music in the '90s and 2000s sounds like reheated Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, what's really annoying is what a youth-driven market it has become, leaving many great country performers of the '60s and '70s out in the cold. This is especially irritating when considering the career of Gary Stewart, one of the greatest of the hardcore-honky tonk school who, at his peak in the mid- to late '70s, could write and sing circles around just about any contemporary country star you could mention. A native of Florida, Stewart escaped a lifetime of working in an airplane factory in the late '60s by pitching some songs he'd written to soon-to-be RCA country label honcho Jerry Bradley. At the time, Stewart (who was composing with his friend Bill Eldridge) didn't aspire to more than being an in-demand Nashville songwriter, but after a couple of years writing with some success, and through Bradley's continued intercession, he was given the opportunity to record on his own. With his huge, vibrato-laden tenor voice (which sounds a bit like Jerry Lee Lewis'), Stewart, with the inestimable help of songwriter Wayne Carson, released 1975's Out of Hand, one of the finest honky tonk records of all time. Paced by the hit "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)," Gary Stewart was quickly becoming a country music star.

Although he composed songs for traditional Grand Ole Opry stars (Cal Smith, Hank Snow), Stewart himself never emulated the traditional values espoused by the Nashville establishment; as one of his song titles stated, he was more of a "flat natural-born good-timin' man." He hung out (and caroused plenty) with Southern rock musicians, using them on his albums at a time when this was still considered radical. He was a renegade, unwilling to play the Nashville game, and his increasing success provided him with the autonomy he needed to do his own thing. However, this generally meant conspicuous excess, especially when it came to substance abuse. Still, from 1975 through 1980, Stewart's recorded work is mostly excellent, with a conspicuous high point coming in 1977 with the release of Your Place or Mine. A hard-driving slice of aggressive honky tonk, it was a rollickingly good piece of work, not the equal to Out Of Hand, but as important an assertion of Stewart's independence from the machinations of country music's star-making machinery. There were problems, however: Stewart was too country for rock audiences and too rock for country audiences, and that limited any stab at broader appeal.

In 1980, he released Cactus and a Rose, with considerable help from Southern rock vets Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Mike Lawler, and Bonnie Bramlett. It was a fine record, but attracted only Stewart's core audience, and at this point in his career, that simply wasn't enough. Suddenly it seemed as if his desire and creativity vanished. He hooked up with Dean Dillon and made a couple of terrible two-good-ol'-boy records that made the redneck rowdiness of Hank Williams, Jr. sound philosophical by comparison. Not long afterwards, Stewart returned to Florida and stopped recording. After his alcoholism and drug use pretty much canceled out a large part of the '80s, Stewart returned, clean and sober, with a strong comeback record, Brand New, in 1988. It wasn't the Gary Stewart of old, but it was a respectable record, and it was enough to propel a comeback that continued with I'm a Texan. Stewart released the first live album of his career in 2003 with Live at Billy Bob's Texas, an album that proved that despite his low profile he was still a formidable honky tonker. Stewart took his own life in December of 2003 following the death of his wife of 43 years in November. He was 59. His heyday was in the '70s, but Gary Stewart deserved to be celebrated for his considerable talent, tenacity, and influence. ~ John Dougan, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I love listening to Gary Stewart. He's still one of my favorites of all times.
One word describes Gary, "underrated" . Grew up listening to his music and there will never be another like him
Gary Stewart could sing a honky tonk song better than anyone, very underrated singer. DJ'S didn't play his songs cause they were about drinking, cheating and stealing
I love gary
Gary stewart passed when I was three years old and in my hometown of Fort Pierce Fl.
Another great country singer gone R.I.P
Im 16 and I wish my generation new what real country is love me some Gary!
A true honky tonk icon !
he was actually born in letcher county ky an lived there till he was 12. one of the best in my opinion
Omg haven't heard this song in 4ever it's my brother from another mother fav song lmfao love u brother
I listen to this man so much,he was real country,I am 60 and miss his music
I love all the comments everyone has posted. I know it would mean alot to his daughter Shannon. My father basically grew up in the Stewart house. Gary was very close with dad and taught him alot that he knows musically. I was young when I spent most of the time I knew him and his wife marry lou. They were great people and they are greatly missed in life as well as the country music world.
Gary was a good guy and his music made you get up and want to hear more ,He shares the stage with his voice and his songs drunk or sober when his songs were played it got your attention and you couldn't stop listening , He is the epitome of Honky Tonk , whether it was at The Vagabond on Houston's north side or at The Western Swing with Gene Watson , Today's singers scream , holler and all sound the same , The roots of country music and rockabilly are withering and dying.
MelissaschAh i m l o v e y o u
dalepurvis
Great memories of seeing Gary at the Chip-N-Dance l a n d in Rendon, Tx back in the mid 70's. He was truly one of the greatest and to this day does not get the credit he deserves.
I listened to Gary Stewart drunk and I still love his music 25 years sober. There's so much more than good time music here though that's part of it. He taps an emotional depth very few in any genre can touch. It's the heart of a brave misguided fool in a world that baffles. And it's heartbreakin g to me that he is so unappreciate d . But I'm glad I can still hear the music.
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
One of the true greats from my home state FLA I was in the chain gang with his son in law he told me some great story's about Gary.....R.I . P
krix720
Hands Down the Greatest Honky Tonk Singer there ever was!!!!!!!!!
lop597
I will continue playing and listening to Gary till my last breath.
freak33460
always loved drinkin thing... the power of his voice was incredible. will be buying a compilation soon...
fireplow007
Saw him at Osceola sports arena, from what I remember...H e ' s King of Honkey tonking .
i knew the voice and the songs...but not the artist- had to read the bio- so disapointed to learn that he's not with us- i'll be listening to more of his music for sure
O need i say no more o gary we love miss u country legend
Right on man,nothin' like some Gary Stewart and a bottle of whiskey to bring back the Good ol' Days.
I wish that they were more of Gary left. Its a crying shame. He had so much talent and was way ahead of his time. An Icon that lives on and on in a lot of our hearts.
Gary and Gene Watson and cold beer u need no more. Love it
Even when Gary was coked out of his head at Billy Bobs Texas he beat damn near anything on the radio today.....FK N sad.....
robertegrain g e r
I first heard Gary fifty years ago on

Am radio on a farm in immokalee fl I still have his cd in my truck today tip your hat boys
jason67018
Gary Stewart songs are the only ones that remind of of the care free life on a swamp buggy in south Florida (drinking and putting the essentials on repeat!). It is sad more of the Country population don't know his music, he was one of the greatest!
ladyfishslay e r
I'm only 19. And I'm bout the only teen that knows bout Gary Stewart, George Jones, and even Waylon Jennings. It's sad what the "youth" so call it don't know what real Country Music is. I was born and raised in central Florida and these are the only musicians worth listenin too.
mlpethtel9
"THE Gary Stewart". Wow!!!! Too many great memories! Fast women, cheap whiskey, good friends. Nearly fifty now and still get light on my feet when one of his songs hit my ears!!! WOW!!!
Thank You Gary!!!
thomvee
simply awesome
Remembering Gary at the Bramha Bull in Okeechobee Florida, in the early 80's. Man what a talent! What is sad is how he is not mentioned with the greats of country music. There is an article on the internet about a guy doing a interview with Gary after his wife had died and not long before he died, and how Gary's demons had control of him. Writes how Gary was living in the mobile home with blacked out windows and keeping it like a freezer in there and would come out of his bedroom and never know
He was truly the best the king of honky tonk! His music strikes a core with me in such ways that others do not. I'll put it to you this way, when I go into a bar or country club and they dont have Gary Stewart on the jukebox I will find myself going to the nearest exit.
I loved him he was the best.
amywhite4483
Everyone's comments pretty much sum it up - he was the best of the best, the King of the Honky Tonk. I first heard him in the early 80's and have loved him ever since - my favorite song is Empty Glass. It makes me very happy to hear up and coming singers here in Texas cover his songs at their shows!! RIP Gary - we will never forget you!!
Gary was on of the best of all time. He lived life hard and fast. When his wife Lee passed it was to much for him to take. Now they are together on the other side. He will always be remembered because his music lives on.
Nobody better for honky tok music, he was the king
trichey75
His music touches on feelings and emotions that most of todays artists either skip over, due to their lables or they just DON'T get it! Truly a one of a kind talent!!!
He did a version of I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal that was light year's better than John Anderson's
i have always loved his sound
like it
yes he was realy good in concert but i seen him three times at the christal chanderler i walk in the bath room and i seen him hitting that dope pupping that arm up he said friend im sick and i just walk away that day still hurts me today whin i could of said friend there away out
one of a kind real soul from the heart
he was the best ever rip
mikedenton_0 4
Still rules on the "rez"
he was the king of honey tonking
this is my god
He "outlawed " the Outlaws....: + )
He didn't have as many hits as others but the ones he had were classics and me and the wife love them.
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