Watch Marty Stuart Show Off His “Guest Book” Mandolin Featuring Signatures from Doc Watson, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, and More

Marty Stuart is a top-notch country singer, songwriter, and musician. More than that, he’s a historian of the genre. His Congress of Country Music in Philadelphia, Mississippi chronicles the history of country music through live music, educational programming, and Stuart’s collection of artifacts. However, he isn’t just an artist with a passion for the genre’s history. He lived decades of that history. Starting at the age of 13, he played with many legendary artists including Lester Flatt, Johnny Cash, and many others.

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Since playing with Cash in the ‘70s, Stuart’s mandolin has been a chronicle of all the artists he’s shared stages with. The instrument bears the signatures of greats like Doc Watson, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more. It all started with Cash carving his initials into the mandolin’s face.

[RELATED: 5 Marty Stuart Songs Every ’90s Country Fan Knows by Heart]

In the video above, Stuart reveals how his mandolin became a “guest book” and showed off some of his favorite signatures.

Marty Stuart Shows Off His “Guest Book” Mandolin

“This mandolin has been with me—so far—for the whole ride,” Marty Stuart explained. “I went to work with Lester Flatt and his band when I was 13 years old at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. I was so proud of my mandolin because it didn’t have one scratch until I went to work with Johnny Cash,” he said.

Stuart joined Cash’s backing band in 1979 and played alongside the legend for six years. In that time, he taught the Man in Black how to play a few chords on the mandolin. “He would play it on one song, and I knew he would get bored in 15 minutes,” Stuart recalled. “I looked over there one night and he had his pocket knife out.” Stuart then showed where Cash had carved his initials—JRC—into the instrument just above one of the sound holes. “I didn’t care but after the show, I said, ‘What’d you do that for?’ and he said, ‘I didn’t want you to forget The Lord.’ I went, ‘I could’ve remembered without you wrecking my mandolin,’” he added.

“Since then, this has kind of become my guestbook,” Stuart explained. Then, he said it was time to “name drop” as he pointed out some of the signatures. Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Cowboy Jack Clement, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, and many others added their names to the instrument.

Stuart’s Favorite Signature

Marty Stuart pointed to a red Braille sticker on the back of the mandolin’s headstock. “My favorite one is this one,” he said. “I worked for a little bit with Doc Watson, Doc and Merle, great guitar players. Doc was blind and he couldn’t sign autographs. Everybody wanted Doc’s autograph. His son Merle signed his autographs,” Stuart explained. “Then, one year for Christmas, Doc got this and he could all of a sudden sign autographs. I was one of the first autographs that Doc gave,” he added.

Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

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