After the success of last year’s inaugural Johnny Cash Music Festival, topping it would seem to be a real stretch.
After all, with a lineup headlining George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Garry Morris, Dailey & Vincent and Rodney Crowell—and co-hosted by Cash’s kids Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash, it really couldn’t get a whole lot better.
Then again, they got Willie Nelson for this year’s Cash Fest, to be held again at Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center in Jonesboro on Oct. 5. Among the performers joining Nelson are young country stars Dierks Bentley and the Civil Wars, with Rosanne again on board as host.
Like last year’s sold-out concert, proceeds from this year’s show will fund the continuing restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas, as well as support an ASU scholarship fund established in Cash’s name.
“Willie was a longtime, very close associate of Johnny Cash,” says festival founder/producer Bill Carter, noting the participation of both Cash and Nelson, along with Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, in country supergroup The Highwaymen—in addition to numerous other Cash-Nelson activities.
“Younger artists like Dierks and the Civil Wars look up to Johnny and will appeal to younger audiences,” notes Carter. “We’re going to get a lot of college students, because it’s during the fall semester.”
The first Cash Festival was held last year on Aug. 4.
“We’re getting a good student response,” Carter continues. “We’re carrying on the Johnny Cash legacy among a younger demo, who certainly know him.”
“It’s amazing to me how many people know Johnny Cash,” he says. “He’s kind of in the Elvis category: An eight-year-old kid today knows who Elvis Presley is, and that pretty much applies to Johnny Cash as well. I’m always overwhelmed by the response I get when I mention Johnny Cash. He’s quite a legend.”
Carter, who likewise hails from a small Arkansas town (Rector), notes that the restoration of the Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess is “coming along very well.”
“We hope to have it open to the public next year,” he says, “and we’re excited to be continuing the festival in order to continue the restoration work.”
He adds that a scholarship in Cash’s name was awarded last year enabling a disadvantaged student to attend ASU, and that another will be awarded this year.
“The family wants to carry that tradition on in the future,” says Carter, “and maybe there are other ways later to reach out as we raise more money. Both Rosanne and John Carter say they know their dad would want to help poor kids in his home area with such a worthwhile cause.”
The artists participating in this year’s festival are “eager to do it to carry on Johnny’s wishes and preserve his home as well,” says Carter. “The hardest thing is to find a date that accommodates everyone. John Carter had a conflict, and said, ‘Look. Rosanne probably can’t make it to every festival, either, so sometimes she’ll be the host and sometimes I’ll host—but it’s more important that we do it than that we’re both here.”
John Carter did note at the announcement for the second festival in July that it would have a great lineup. “Rosanne will be there to represent the family,” he said. “Willie Nelson was a dear, dear friend of my father and is very close to our family. He will do a great job, as will Dierks Bentley and the Civil Wars.”
Noting that the event would “benefit a great area and a lot of great people, he concluded: “Dyess is an area that really needs help, and this project will help. We have a lot of good friends in Dyess, and the family is proud to see the project moving along. The best thing is that it is a continuing project, and we hope it will continue for many years to come.”
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