There are few things that pique the interest of audiophiles more than the promise of unreleased music. Just remember the Beach Boys’ Smile or Guns n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy. Before either album saw the light of day, there were years of speculation and countless articles imagining how they were lost masterpieces. They each came out with tremendous fanfare, but the luster quickly wore off.
For decades, outlaw country singer Gary Stewart, best known for his booze-themed country hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s, had his own unreleased-music legend. Only his were a batch of Motown covers recorded before he became famous. According to Rolling Stone, Motown Records publisher Jobete Music set up shop in Nashville in the mid-70s to hawk the label’s catalogue to country artists. A then-unknown Stewart was hired to record demo versions of three Motown songs. Though never released, the recordings supposedly made their way into the hands of producer Rory Dea who helped Stewart get signed to RCA. The story of the fabled lost tracks even earned a mention in Stewart’s Los Angeles Times obituary after he took his own life in 2003.