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Whatever Happened To Gary Stewart?

There really wasn’t a lot of what I’d call ‘Honky-Tonk’ country anymore in the 1970’s. These days, it’s all but dead (with the possible exception of David Ball, who can still wail a great honky-tonk sound!).

In the 1970’s, country music had changed, as it does every now and then. The 70’s came in with a kind of smooth sound, then went to what we all loved to call ‘Outlaw Country’ with some of the ‘country-rock’ thrown in.

Oh, there was still the traditional country artist’s having great success. There was still plenty of room for George Jones, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride and others. But the honky-tonk’? Well, not so much. For younger fans of country, honky-tonk was…’my old man’s music’.

But there were a couple of those honky-tonker’s that stuck around and had great hits. One would be Mel Street. The other would be Gary Stewart.

Gary Stewart
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Gary came out of the coal mine country of Letcher County, Kentucky. He began writing and singing songs in his teens, and married at the tender age of 17 (more about that in a bit).

Gary signed his first record contract in the late 1960’s but, as they say, it wasn’t happenin’. It was in 1973 that Gary signed with RCA records in Nashville and his fortunes changed.

He had a Top 10 hit in 1974 with ‘Drinkin’ Thing’ and followed it up in 1975 with what many of us consider a honky-tonk anthem of sorts.

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‘She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)’ topped the national country charts. The album that song came from ‘Out Of Hand’ is still considered one of the best country music albums ever recorded. And if you wonder what the definition of ‘honky-tonk country’ is….well, find a copy, crank it up, and it might be best if you had a perfectly chilled Longneck in your hand.

As I mentioned earlier, well, country music changes and so it did. Gary Stewart’s kind of music wasn’t in vogue anymore, it fell by the radio wayside and mainstream station’s thought it was all to hokey for them. Sad, but true.

Gary kept recording, kept writing, kept touring. After all, he was a singer, a writer, an entertainer. It was…well, who he was.

So whatever happened to Gary Stewart?

The year was 2003. Remember that marriage entered into at the age of 17? Those kind of marriage’s never last, right? They’re too young. Well, this one did last, nearly 43 years as a matter of fact. The love of Gary’s young life turned out to be the love of his entire life. Oh, Gary loved singing about drinking, cheating, the usual honky-tonk fare. But he was married to his sweetheart for nearly 43 years. And then his sweetheart died.

Mary Lou passed away on November 26, 2003.

Gary was heartbroken. He cancelled his scheduled concert’s for the rest of the year. And then, devastated by the loss of the love of his life, Gary Stewart was found dead on December 16, 2003 from a self inflicted gunshot wound.

He was 59.

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