Background Image

Arkansas Living September 2012 : Page-14

$6872+2676(&21' $118$/-2+11<&$6+ by 086,&)(67,9$/ J ACK W. H ILL 14 , $5.$16$6/,9,1* SEPTEMBER 2012

Asu To Host Second Annual Johnny Cash Music Festival

Jack W. Hill

Arkansas favorite son Johnny cash got a special recognition a year ago

The first festival in August 2011 sold out and was filmed; it now can be seen on PBS stations and other cable or satellite stations. It is also available in DVD and CD versions.

This year, the festival has moved to October, and Johnny Cash’s daughter, Rosanne Cash, says there is a good reason for its move from summer to autumn.

“We wanted to do it in the school year, when the young people at the college won’t be out of town,” she said in an interview from her New York home. “This year, PBS won’t be filming it, so the festival will be much more streamlined.”

Cash, 57, has her own reasons for continuing to be actively involved in the festival and serving as the emcee.

“Last year, it was very successful, and I think we all got very emotionally involved,” she reflected. “My family and I are really behind this project since ASU is so connected to it. I think my dad would also feel committed to it.”

Her father’s old home outside Dyess, recipient of the festival’s proceeds, is a place she has not yet been able to bring herself to enter. She visited the site in February to check on the progress of the cordoned-off reconstruction. The project, on a five-year schedule, will include a park around the old homestead and the renovation of other old buildings in downtown Dyess.

“My sisters and I have been going through our parents’ old papers, putting aside things for the eventual museum in our dad’s old house,” Cash said.

Cash has released a dozen albums since her debut in 1978, winning the Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award in 1985 for “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me.” She has overcome brain Surgery and throat problems, written a collection of short stories, a children’s book and a memoir, and raised four daughters and one son. She and her husband, John Leventhal, are working on a new album, which she says has been partially inspired by her recent return visits to the South.

“John and I are writing it together,” she said, “and it’s songs about Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and their people and stories.”

Her own inspirations, besides her dad, include singer Emmylou Harris, photographer Annie Leibovitz, artist Georgia O’Keefe and Arkansas-born electric guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Nelson headlines

Willie Nelson headlines this year’s festival and is likely to reprise some of his songs and stories from The Highwaymen years, when he and Cash, plus Kris Kristofferson and the late Waylon Jennings, toured and recorded as a foursome, including a performance at a 1991 benefit in Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum for victims of Red River flooding in southwest Arkansas.Cash and Nelson had known each other for decades; Nelson even met his present (and fourth) wife, Annie D’Angelo, when she was a make-up artist on a 1986 film, “Stagecoach,” which co-starred Cash and Nelson.

The 79-year-old Nelson has released more than 300 albums, which have sold more than 50 million copies. In 1985, he founded Farm Aid, and he has continued his constant touring aboard a succession of Honeysuckle Rose tour buses, now powered by Biowillie, his own biodiesel company.

Starting as a successful songwriter, thanks to Patsy Cline recording his “Crazy” and Faron Young taking his “Hello Walls” to the No. 1 position on radio, Nelson came into his own when he despaired of doing things the Nashville way and moved back to Texas. There his “Red Headed Stranger,” a concept album, became popular and launched the “outlaw country” genre, with Nelson becoming an unlikely favorite of both hippies and rednecks. His many hits include the anthems “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind, and his 2006 album, “Songbird,” produced by roots rock veteran Ryan Adams, included a song, “I’m a Worried Man,” written by Johnny and June Carter Cash.

The younger element

Dierks Bentley, one of this year’s featured performers, has close ties to Arkansas.His first name was given him to honor his grandparents, who founded a lumber company of the same name and the town of Dierks, in southwest Arkansas. It’s a connection that has helped bring Bentley to Arkansas for a number of shows, the latest of which was in May at the Riverfest Amphitheater in Little Rock.

Bentley, who said he hopes to bring in the “rowdier, younger element,” credited the legacy of Johnny Cash with helping instill in him a respect and love for country music.

“One of my first jobs was in the archives at what was then called The Nashville Network,” Bentley recalled in an interview during his summer tour. “So one day, the master tapes of his TV shows came in on VHS, and I watched every one of them. I was amazed at how revolutionary those shows were for their time. He was as far from being a traditionalist as you could get.

“I never got the chance to meet Johnny, but I’ve done his ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ probably a billion times. He was one of those guys whose redemption and salvation are a pretty great story.”

The 36-year-old Bentley’s eighth album, “Home,” came out earlier this year, and in late August, he released the appropriately named “Summer on Fire” EP.

“I’m honored to be a part of something that’s honoring Johnny Cash,” Bentley said.“I hope I get to do a duet with Rosanne.Maybe I can take the part of someone like Jeff Tweedy, who sang with her on her latest album, ‘The List.’ That would be quite a feat, since that’s the album of songs Johnny had recommended to her when she was 18. ”

A relatively new act, The Civil Wars, rounds out the show’s listed headliners. The Civil Wars – whose name, they have explained, refers to their focus on the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of relationships – consists of a singer-songwriter duo, Joy Williams and John Paul White, who met in Nashville, Tenn., at a studio-sponsored “writing camp.” In November 2009, they released a digital EP album, “Poison & Wine,” and the title cut was featured on an episode of the ABC TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Within two years, the duo was opening shows on a tour by Adele, as well as for Emmylou Harris. They performed a benefit for the victims of the Alabama tornado and played at the renowned Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. By the end of 2011, they had played at the Grand Ole Opry and recorded a single, “Safe & Sound,” with Taylor Swift and T Bone Burnett for the soundtrack of the film “The Hunger Games.”

In February, The Civil Wars won two Grammy Awards for their album, “Barton Hollow,” in the categories Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo or Group Performance. This year they have performed at a pair of famous Tennessee festivals: the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

For more information about the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Project, the Historic Dyess Colony Master Plan or the festival itself, visit the website at or call the Arkansas Heritage Sites Office at ASU at (888) 225-8343 or (870) 972-2803.

At a press conference when the 2011 festival was first announced, Rosanne Cash said, “There’s a real need for authenticity now. And everything about this is authentic. It’s authentically real, it’s a part of my family, it’s my dad’s history, it’s where the music came from, and it will be here now forever.”

Jack W. Hill is a freelance writer based in Bismarck.

Read the full article at

Previous Page  Next Page

Publication List
Using a screen reader? Click Here