The Everlys Meet Johnny Cash In The Sunken Lands

While we were in Dyess, AR for the inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival (October 19-21), my twin sister Sheryl and I, along with our colleague Shelly Warner (Marketing Director for the Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce), were interviewed by Editor Sandra Brand of The Osceola Times.

Representing The Everly Brothers Childhood Home Foundation, we were there to learn more about the restoration of The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home to inform our own work and also to draw inspiration from the shared biographical and musical ties between Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers. From the seed and nursery capital of the country in Shenandoah, IA to the land of cotton in Dyess, AR, they were children of The Great Depression, and the responsibility and discipline they learned early in life informed their character and artistry. Watch them perform together on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970.

Sandra found our story fascinating and wanted to share it with the locals who were always keen for a new angle on the local legend. Sheryl had visited the Cash home as a student researcher when the restoration was just beginning, so she was astonished by its transformation. Sandra interviewed us and took our photo on the steps of the restored Dyess Colony Administration Building where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated it in 1936. Dyess was an integral part of President Roosevelt's Works Administration Program (WPA), "the largest and most ambitious of the New Deal agency."

Our article was published in the October 27th edition of The Osceola Times.

The exhibits, the house, the theater and administration building, the presentations, the live music, the panel with Johnny's classmates, the performances by members of the Cash family. It was an all-encompassing experience. I was totally immersed in this heritage in a way that visiting a museum or attending a concert alone cannot do. I lived and breathed the Cash story for three days. His artistry made sense to me in way that it never had before. I traversed the long dirt road to his house by wagon, I walked through the rooms, I reached down to touch the gumbo soil as I gazed out at the cotton fields, I met his school sweetheart and best friend, and I looked upon precious personal affects like his prom memories book and brother Jack's pillow he always kept close after his tragic death at age 15.

All of this is a great credit to the Arkansas State University, Cash family and friends, and of course the community. I believe what they've accomplished with the restoration of the Cash home, revitalization of Dyess Colony and the establishment of the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival will be considered the gold standard for preservation campaigns on behalf of not only musical, but historical icons in general.

The festival staff were pleasant, knowledgeable and accommodating. They gave us permission to leave our brochures at the Visitors Center where they started to go quickly! While there, Shelly also had the opportunity to speak briefly with Johnny's sister, Joanne Cash, about our initiative in Shenandoah. Joanne and brother Tommy Cash have been very active with the restoration in Dyess.

Their work certainly inspires excitement and encouragement as our team looks to elevate the visitor experience with Everly history in Shenandoah. When you return to the place where an artist spent their formative years, a place they called "home," that's where you'll find them. It's sacred ground. Everything in their biography and music catalog makes sense once you've stripped away the veneer of celebrity and experienced the region that shaped them. It's a special privilege for any professional to be involved with this particular aspect of an artist's legacy!

Being interviewed by Sandra about our experience in Dyess was an unexpected delight, but the most surprising moment was yet to happen, and we were sure to follow up with her about it for our headline. Shortly after a fan asked if we were Cash family members, the film crew's scout Jesse Hawk approached us about being in Rosanne Cash's new music video!

After nervously but excitedly accepting the invitation, we walked a short distance from the field concert site to the Cash home where we were filmed. After signing our release forms, Director David McClister told us that the expected release date will be sometime in Spring 2018, during which time I plan to write about this experience in greater detail.

Aside: As the bus journeyed down County Road 924 during our first visit to the Cash home two days before the video was filmed, they were playing Johnny's music including one of my favorite early Sun-era songs, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (1958). Johnny, Rosanne and The Everly Brothers actually performed this song together on the album, Water from the Wells of Home (1989). Listen to this quartet! Along my journey as a preservationist, I've found that artists and their histories sometimes intersect in unexpected and profound ways. My heart, eyes and ears are always open!

Shelly captured the following photo of us on set with the crew as we were learning song lyrics and receiving some instruction from the Director (I'm on the right in black floral). The wind was unforgiving and whipped our hair into our faces, but David said that it made for great dramatic affect! After filming, we took several photos around the front of the house. Another guest took a photo of our Everly trio on the porch of the Cash family home!

We recalled Rosanne mentioning at the presentation that morning that she was planning to release a song that she had co-written with her father. She said Johnny's unpublished words were recently discovered by her brother, John Carter Cash. Rosanne made a few edits and added the melody. She hasn't participated in many projects relating to her famous parental, so we knew this was significant.

And little did we realize that we were to be a part of it that day!

After the morning sessions ended, Sheryl grabbed a sprig from one of the cotton bouquets on stage, not knowing that a short time later she'd be using it as a prop in Rosanne's music video. Impassioned individuals dedicated to music heritage can only dream of such encounters. What an honor to be at this extraordinary intersection of Cash past, present and future!



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