May 27

Here Are Some Facts About Gary Stewart, The King of Honky Tonk

Perhaps the world’s greatest honky-tonk singer, Gary Stewart left an indelible mark in country music with his high-pitched tenor and unique vocal quaver blended with an intense emotionalism. People would flock to his shows just to enjoy Gary Stewart songs about drinking, cheating, and the usual honky-tonk fare – that was even made more intense with his trembling, airborne vocals, and slide-guitar prowess.

But ever wonder what happened to Gary Stewart? Well, let’s take a deeper look at his interesting life with these facts below.

1. He’s a native of Jenkins, Kentucky. 

Born on May 28, 1944, Gary Ronnie Stewart was the son of a coal miner. Sadly, his father was injured during a cave-in while working in a coal mine. The family then moved to Fort Pierce, Florida – where Stewart started his musical career.

2. He was named after an American actor. 

Stewart’s mother named him after her favorite two-time Oscar winner, Gary Cooper. Stewart has eight more siblings with names that start with the letter “G.”

3. He taught himself how to play instruments. 

When he was in tenth grade, Stewart taught himself to play the guitar and piano and started his first band, the Tomcats. Soon after, Stewart dropped out of school to play in a local honky-tonk.

4. He was encouraged by country star Mel Tillis to write songs. 

It was Mel Tillis who told Stewart that if he wants to make it in the music business, he must write songs and pitch them to Nashville – some advice he took seriously. He met Tillis while playing in an Okeechobee, Florida, honky-tonk known as the Wagon Wheel.

5. His one leg is a half-inch shorter than the other. 

In 1980, Stewart had a car accident that resulted in a broken leg – making it a little shorter than the other, “and it always hurts like hell,” said Stewart.

6. His alcohol and drug addiction caused a toll on his career. 

Stewart’s addiction pretty much canceled out a large part of the ’80s. He came back to Florida and stopped recording for some time. 

7. He married young. 

Stewart fell in love fast and hard with Mary Lou Taylor, who was more than three years his senior. The two married when Stewart was only 17 and Lou was 20. They raised two children, Shannon and Joey, who committed suicide in 1988 at age 25.

Sadly, Stewart’s wife died after 43 years of marriage following a battle with pneumonia. He was so heartbroken and devastated that he canceled his scheduled concerts for the rest of the year. A month after Lou’s death, Stewart was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 59.

Indeed, the music industry tragically lost Stewart – but he will be remembered forever.


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