Manila song writer participates in Dyess Heritage Featival

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Roseanne Cash and Joe Chipman exchanged thoughts on the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival. (photo provided)

Joe Chipman, storyteller-songwriter, along with his friends, the Bryant family, Brandon, Lori, and Abby, all of Manila, had the opportunity to share their talents at the three day 2017 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival held at Dyess.

Dyess, a small community in Mississippi County, was established in 1934. It was one of the nation's largest agricultural resettlement communities under the New Deal. It is also the boyhood home of Johnny Cash.

The Festival was held Oct. 19-21 with activities, speakers, entertainment and more on the historic Dyess Colony Circle and the newly renovated visitor's center. The visitor's center is located in the original theater building next to the administration building. The administration building is now a museum filled with the history of Dyess Colony and the life of Johnny Cash and his family as they were among the 500 farm families relocated to Dyess.

Joe Chipman and Brandon, Lori and Abbey Bryant, all of Manila, were part of the “Arts and Artistry from the New Deal and Beyond” at the Dyess Heritage Festival. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

The restoration project of the childhood home of Johnny Cash and Dyess was made possible through a series of Johnny Cash Music Festivals held at the Convocation Center at Arkansas State University. The festival expanded to this year's three-day project giving visitors the opportunity to experience just a touch of life as it was in Dyess Colony.

Dyess is one of the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites throughout the Delta.

Chipman has long been a fan of the music of Johnny Cash and the way it reflected on the history of Mississippi County and the Delta.

Mike Doyle, KASU station manager was moderator at the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival at Dyess.

Chipman started writing songs about 10 years ago in an effort to preserve the history of Mississippi County and Northeast Arkansas. Born in 1955, Chipman missed many of the events his songs and narratives portray but remembers well the stories told to him by the older generation as he was growing up.

Through Chipman's music, he became acquainted with Mike Doyle, KASU station manager.

Chipman was surprised in July when he was contacted by Doyle informing him that Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of the ASU Heritage Sites Administration, asked if Chipman would consider being part of the Dyess Colony symposium "Arts and Artistry from the New Deal and Beyond." The event was held in the visitor's center on Thursday and Friday leading up to the Saturday events of the concert in the cotton field (adjacent to the boyhood home of Cash. It featured Buddy Jewell, Joanne Cash, Tommy Cash, Roseanne Cash and Kris Kristofferson.

Chipman has always enjoyed the history of the area and was glad to be a part of the festival.

Chipman's first CD, entitled Taming Mississippi County, is filled with his original songs and narratives, performed by local talent. It was produced by Jeff Knowlton.

Songs from his second CD, Arkansas in Me: Keeping it Delta, were used in his hour presentation at Dyess. The CD was produced by Craig Morris.

Anyone interested in purchasing Chipman's CDs can send $18 to CD, P.O. Box 1395, Manila, AR 72442 and he will send both CDs.

Chipman chose six songs and the narratives to go along with the songs for the presentation kicking off Friday's scheduled programs at the Dyess Visitor's Center.

Chipman said he enjoyed the experience and meeting people from New York City, Florida, Alabama, Minnesota, and as far away as Canada.

“The response I received was overwhelming,” Chipman said. “One of the men from New York said he was wondering about the area and after hearing my songs had a better understanding. A man from Brooklyn, N.Y., bought a copy of both my CDs and said he was taking them back to have his grandchildren listen and learn about life other than city life. I enjoyed talking to the people from other areas and to having my CDs taken out of state.

“I really appreciate the invitation by the ASU Heritage Sites Program to be part of the festival,” Chipman said.

Chipman said he enjoyed the cotton field concert. He has attended all of the Johnny Cash Festivals held at ASU but the three day festival gave more people the opportunity to be part of it and learn about the actual history of Dyess Colony.

“Learning where we came from helps us appreciate life as we know it today,” Chipman said. “We take so much for granted. I feel humbled to have had a very small part in the huge project brought together by Dr. Hawkins and the Heritage Festival Committee members. It was a wonderful three day experience.”

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