Johnny Cash, the son of farmers who grew up in the Dyess Colony in the Northeast Arkansas Delta region was mesmerized. Since his childhood, the would-be musician wanted to hear his own voice on the radio. He’d served in the service and had returned to the area to start his musical career.
One night, he sat in the crowd and listened to Elvis Presley perform on the back of a flatbed truck at the opening of a drugstore in Memphis. It was time for him to go and visit, Sam Phillips, the man who discovered Elvis. He practiced for months before he finally decided to meet Phillips. After several misses, he finally got a session with the early rock-n-roll kingmaker. Cash mostly sang gospel, and Phillips told him he couldn’t sell music in that genre, but he heard something unique in Cash’s voice.
A new star was about to be born.
Cash would go onto have a hall of fame career and is considered one of the great musicians of his era. His boyhood home in Dyess is now a museum and the annual Heritage Cash Festival is slated for October.
One of the opening acts will be held this Saturday (Aug. 31) at the Visitor’s Center at Dyess.
Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) and the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home will host a special preview of “Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns,” with showings at 10 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 2 p.m.
The preview screening is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. The preview will include clips from several episodes of the eight-part, 16-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with Dayton Duncan, Julie Dunfey and Pam Baucom. The series will premiere on AETN Television Network on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m.
“Country Music” explores the history and roots of country music as it tells the stories of the trailblazers who influenced country music throughout the generations, including Arkansas’s own Johnny Cash. The “Cotton Field Concert” headliners for the 2019 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, Rosanne Cash and Marty Stuart, feature prominently in the documentary and the all-star concert “Country Music: Live at the Ryman” which will air on PBS on Sept. 8 from 7 – 9 p.m., and stream on PBS.org and PBS apps.
Baucom will also take part in a special panel presentation hosted by Rosanne Cash on Friday, Oct. 18, during the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival at Dyess.
Two Grammy Award winners will headline a benefit concert at the festival in the cotton field adjacent to the Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess. Musicians Marty Stuart and Rosanne Cash will perform at the concert that will take place Saturday afternoon, Oct. 19, as the highlight of the three-day festival, themed “Legacy, Love and Music.”
After successful music events in Arkansas State University’s First National Bank Arena beginning in 2011, the benefit event was expanded to a three-day heritage festival in 2017 and moved to Dyess.
John Alexander, author of the recently released biography of Johnny Cash that details the music legend’s life through his songs, will headline the list of symposium speakers at the festival. Alexander, a music journalist and historian, released “The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash,” published by the University of Arkansas Press in April. He has spent years studying the life and music of Cash from his Arkansas childhood through his 2003 death.