The Third Annual Johnny Cash Music Festival is set for August 17 on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Vince Gill, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers, Joanne Cash Yates and Tommy Cash are set to perform. According to concert producer Bill Carter, each artist on this year’s bill has a personal connection to Johnny Cash.
“We’ve had great success with our first two events and have been lucky to bring in some wonderful talent who volunteered their time for this benefit,” he said. “This year is no exception. What is particularly interesting about the upcoming show is that every one of the artists performing had some sort of personal connection to Johnny. They’ve got some wonderful stories to share, and I have no doubt that in addition to the great music, we’ll hear a few of those tales.”
Money raised from the concert will go towards refurbishing Johnny Cash’s Boyhood Home in Dyess, Arkansas as well as funding a college scholarship established in Johnny’s name. The Boyhood Home is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014 as a tourist attraction. Three young people from the area have already been awarded college scholarships and are working on their degrees.
According to Larry Gatlin, the fact that Johnny Cash’s name is still able to do good work is something that would make Johnny proud. “I’m grateful to the folks who are raising money for the scholarships for the kids that can’t afford to go to school,” he said. “John and June are smiling down from heaven on that, I know they are. They were very benevolent, very generous, loving people.”
The Statler Brothers’ Jimmy Fortune also recalled Johnny’s giving streak. “He had a way of communicating with people that I’ve never seen before or since,” he said. “If he was sitting in a room, everybody wanted his attention. Everybody wanted to be talking to him, everybody wanted to be a part of what he was. But Johnny would always go to the person who was kind of sitting on the outside and make them feel like they were a part of it. He would always say something nice.”
Vince Gill is grateful to be able to help. “He really was a great man and I was lucky enough to know him,” he said. ”Any time you get a chance to do something that’s a part of making things better for people that don’t have those opportunities, you feel great. The blessings that I get for doing these types of things, nobody will ever have a clue how much more they mean to me. To help anybody with the opportunity of an education …you can’t do any better than that.”
Johnny’s sister and brother, Joanne and Tommy, have been working tirelessly on the Johnny Cash Music Festival and on the development of the Johnny Cash Boyhood home. They can speak of their brother’s compassion and generosity firsthand.
“We were at the University of Wisconsin Field House for a show and of course the place was packed and I saw my brother going up and down the aisles in the dressing room of the university football and basketball players and I asked him what he was doing,” Tommy said. “He said, ‘I’m looking for the player that has the raggedyest shorts and the most worn tennis shoes.’ I asked him what he meant and what he was going to do? Then I saw him roll up a hundred dollar bill and stick it through the little square into this guy’s tennis shoes on the inside of the locker. And I said, ‘I can’t believe I saw you do that’ and he said, ‘I don’t want anyone to know.’”
Tickets for the Johnny Cash Music Festival are available at ASU’s Central Box Office and online at www.tickets.astate.edu. Tickets can also be purchased by logging onto the official website of the Johnny Cash Music Festival, www.johnnycashmusicfest.com. Call to purchase tickets toll-free at 1-888-278-3267.