Arkansas State University will host the first annual Johnny Cash Musical Festival on Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Convocation Center, as a fundraiser to benefit ongoing renovation projects in Cash's hometown of Dyess.
(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
Performers for the music festival were announced during the event and will include Rosanne Cash, John Carter and his wife Laura Cash, Tommy Cash, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Daily and Vincent, Gary Morris, Rodney Crowell, Chelsea Crowell (Rosanne and Rodney's daughter), and other artists to be added in the coming months.
Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas Heritage sites and Arkansas Delta Byways, has worked tirelessly with Dyess Mayor Larry Sims and the Dyess City Council for more than a year. She has helped secure grants and has guided the formation of a Dyess Colony Redevelopment Master Plan.
"We have partnered with the city to focus on their city's rich heritage and at the same time pay tribute to Johnny Cash," Hawkins said. "This will be something we can all take pride in."
During the media event the Johnny Cash home was referred to as Arkansas' Graceland.
Bill Carter, of Nashville, has been the main festival founder and promoter. He is executive director for Gaither Videos and co-founder of Rector Helping Hands.
"Johnny Cash and I both grew up in the cotton fields of Northeast Arkansas," Carter said. '"We became great friends through the years.
"Johnny (Cash) made a great impact on music and was known world-wide," Carter said. "He had an impact on all those he touched. There are so many people who are willing to contribute their time and talents to this festival, and the people of Dyess, and our whole area will benefit from it."
"This is an incredibly emotional day for me and my family," Rosanne Cash said. "This is a day that I will hold in my heart forever, to know the inspiration came from these people who love him. Now everyone can go to Dyess and touch the house he grew up in. They can see how far he came to get to where he was. Daddy was authentic, and this Dyess hometown project is authentic. I visited his home place with him when I was 12 years old. Now this place will be here forever, and the memories with it."
Ms. Cash had a special request from the audience to sing "Little Flat Topped Box" at the music festival, and she agreed to do so.
"My father was connected to the heart and the spirit of this area," said John Carter Cash. "The rich gumbo dirt here made his spirit strong. His music came from here, as well as his faith and his family. He learned to work hard early in life. What a blessing this festival will be. I look forward to being a part of the show. I see the restoration at Dyess, as being a museum of the American spirit. People recognize the authenticity of Daddy's music, and it touched their hearts. He was genuine, and his life was an open book."
"Johnny's house was my house too," said Tommy Cash. "We have a lot of memories in that house. I look forward to going back there today, as I have not been there for 40 years. We didn't have a lot of material things in that house but we were happy. Johnny sang from the heart, about the land and the spirit of living. I have come home today and it feels good. I'm sure my blood pressure will rise when I see the home place again."
ASU Board of Trustee member Ron Rhodes presented Dyess Mayor Larry Sims with a proclamation from Governor Mike Beebe designating Aug. 4 as Johnny Cash Day in Arkansas.
"This is a big deal to the people of Dyess," said Sims. "You all are helping our town come back to life now. We want to tell the story of Dyess Colony and about Johnny (Cash) growing up there. We appreciate all the help given to us."
After the media event many members of the Cash family and festival promoters traveled to the city of Dyess and west of town to the boyhood home of Johnny Cash.
Tickets for the music festival will go on sale May 2. General admission tickets will be $37.50. A lower level package is $75 and will include the concert ticket and admission to a Johnny Cash photo exhibit. The VIP package is $150 and will include a ticket in rows 1 to 5, admission to photo exhibit and an after-concert "meet and greet" with the Cash family. For more information persons may contact www.johnnycashmusicfest.com.