Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 28 May '45, Letcher County KY; d 16 Dec. 2003, Fort Pierce FL) Honky-tonk country singer and songwriter, one of the best. Raised in Florida; to Nashville and teamed with policeman Bill Eldridge as songwriter; songs recorded by Nat Stuckey, Hank Snow, Billy Walker, Jack Greene, Warner Mack resulted in a Kapp record contract. At one point in '71 four of the top ten country hits were his songs, but he had no hits of his own. He returned to Florida disillusioned, but was called back by producer Roy Dea and signed to RCA: the first single, a stunning remake of the Allman Bros' 'Ramblin' Man', was a minor hit '73; 'Drinkin' Thing' and 'Out Of Hand' '74 made the top ten: he opened shows for Charley Pride, his rocking honky-tonk a complete contrast; no. 1 hit with 'She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)' '75 led to MCA (Kapp's new owners) reissuing singles: 'You're Not The Woman You Used To Be' went top 20, better than his current RCA single 'Flat Natural Born Good-Timin' Man'. Held in high esteem by other artists, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Rodney Crowell guesting on his records, he continued to chart '76-8 but slipped: he stuck to honky-tonk clubs where he felt at home but his records did not get much airtime. Teaming with songwriter Dean Dillon led to classic honky-tonk, but only 'Brotherly Love' and 'Smokin' In The Rockies' '82-3 were minor hits; Dillon went on to greater Nashville success, but Stewart remained in relative obscurity. Albums included Out Of Hand '75, Steppin' Out '76, Your Place Or Mine '77, Little Junior '78, Gary '79, Brotherly Love and Those Were The Days '82-3 with Dillon, all on RCA. He returned to recording late '80s for California-based Hightone Records; albums were acclaimed by critics: Brand New '88, Battleground '90, I'm A Texan '93. Live at Billy Bob's Texas was released 2003. Stewart's son had committed suicide in 1988; his wife died in November of 2003 and he shot himself the next month.