The 1970s wouldn't have been the same without Gary Stewart (1944-2003), seein' as how he almost single-handedly brought rowdy drinkin'-and-fightin' honkytonk songs back into vogue. Oh, sure, there was Moe Bandy, who tossed off one good ole boy anthem after another, but those were mostly just cute novelty songs. Listening to Mr. Stewart, on the other hand, could actually make you a little bit nervous... like, hey, what would happen if you went into a really gnarly redneck bar and got some dude mad?? Stewart's formula was raw honkytonk misery and a little southern rock THWACK over the head. Like Delbert McClinton, Stewart understood the powerful influence the blues had on country music, and was about as house-rockin' as a country boy could get. Towards the end of the decade he drifted a bit, but resurfaced in the late '80s with a series of solid releases on the independent Hightone label.
Riley "Grandma's Roadhouse" (RCA, 1970)
Gary Stewart was a sideman for this obscuro hippie-soul/country-rock outing, playing in a small band led by singer Riley Watkins. It's fun stuff, with a rough-and-ready proto-Southern rock feel that Stewart's fans will recognize from his later records. Watkins is kind of iffy singer, but the music is still fun. Originally released as a vanity pressing, this has seen the light of day in the reissue renaissance of the post-millennial digital era. Worth checking out, particularly if you're a Gary Stewart fan.
Gary Stewart "You're Not The Woman You Used To Be" (MCA, 1975)
Gary Stewart "Out Of Hand" (RCA, 1975)
Charley Pride/Various Artists "In Concert With Host Charley Pride" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
A double album with live performances by Nashville superstar Charley Pride and a passel of other artists in the mid-1970s RCA lineup, including stalwarts such as Dolly Parton and Jerry Reed, as well as newcomers such as Ronnie Milsap and (surprisingly!) our man, Gary Stewart...
Gary Stewart "Your Place Or Mine" (RCA)
Gary Stewart "Steppin' Out" (RCA, 1976)
Gary Stewart "Little Junior" (RCA, 1978)
Gary Stewart "Gary" (RCA, 1979)
Gary Stewart "Cactus And A Rose" (RCA, 1980)
Gary Stewart & Dean Dillon "Brotherly Love" (RCA, 1982)
Gary Stewart & Dean Dillon "Those Were The Days" (RCA, 1983)
Gary Stewart "Brand New" (Hightone, 1988)
Gary Stewart "Battleground" (Hightone, 1990)
Gary Stewart "I'm A Texan" (Hightone, 1993)
Gary Stewart "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" (Smith Music Group, 2003)
Gary Stewart "Gary's Greatest: 17 Original Hits" (Hightone, 1991)
Picking up the slack for the major labels, Hightone gave up the goods with this excellent retrospective of Stewart's RCA years. Most of the great Stewart classics are on here, and that means a bunch of really great, really memorable hard country music all in one place. This is fairly interchangeable with the RCA Essential disc that came out a few years later... both are HIGHLY recommended!
Gary Stewart "The Essential Gary Stewart" (RCA-Nashville, 1996)
Pure gold. I dunno what the deal is with there being two extremely similar best-ofs out there on two different labels... I'm not complaining mind you, just curious. Either one of these discs should rock your world.
Gary Stewart "Best Of The Hightone Years" (Hightone, 2002)
Pretty impressive that his hard-luck, hard-drivin,' hard-drinkin' hard country formula still sounded so damn good, even this late in the game. These 1988-'93 recordings have all the fire and wit of his classic '70s material... In fact, this is simply a damn fine country record, period. Recommended!
Gary Stewart "All American Country" (Sony-BMG, 2003)
Gary Stewart "RCA Country Legends" (Sony-BMG, 2004)
Hick Music Index