Thursday, December 18, 2003

Country Singer, Gary Stewart Dead

Apparently from suicide, a few weeks after his wife's death.

Sad, sad news. I was a big Gary Stewart fan. Saw him once in Texas. He had a voice unlike anyone.

From TCPalm: Editorials:

"A Fort Pierce favorite son, singer-songwriter Gary Stewart died this week of an apparent suicide just weeks after the death of Mary Lou Stewart, his wife of 42 years. Gary Stewart was found dead in his Fort Pierce home Tuesday from a gunshot wound. "

A native of Letcher County, Ky., Stewart moved to Fort Pierce with his family at age 12 following his father's injury in a coal mining accident. He worked at Northrop Grumman aircraft plant in Stuart and played with country and rock bands before teaming up with Fort Pierce police officer Billy Eldridge in writing country music songs.

In the 1970s, Stewart, with his fusion of country, blues and Southern rock, sung in a powerful tenor with a distinctive wailing vibrato, took the music world by storm. In 1975, he released "Out of Hand," an album featuring the hits "Drinkin' Thing" and "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)." Country Music Magazine rated it the No. 3 All Time Greatest Country Album.

Throughout the 1970s, Stewart recorded six albums and wrote hits for other country music stars. During the early 1980s, he was largely absent from the national music stage, then made a triumphant return in 1988 with the release of "Brand New." He continued writing and recording. His final album, "Live at Billy Bob's Texas," was released earlier this year.

Stewart's hard-driving, boot-stomping, heavy-drinking, fist-fighting, barroom-weeping music epitomized the essence of honky tonk. No one did it better. Some say he failed to reach the pinnacle of celebrity because his music was too rock for country fans and too country for rock fans.

But, Billboard Magazine's Gerry Wood once said, "Gary Stewart just may be the best singer in the history of country music."

Stewart traveled throughout the country and wrote, recorded and partied with Southern rock musicians such as members of the Allman Brothers band, but his base was always Fort Pierce.

Stewart lived life with passion and his fans were passionate about his music.

His sudden death is tragic. But, he left us a treasure trove of sounds and feelings that will not be forgotten.