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Rosanne Cash says her father would love the fact that the Johnny Cash Music Festival, held Aug. 17 in Jonesboro, Ark., not only raises money to renovate the Cash family home in Dyess, Ark., but provides money for scholarships to help young men and women in the music program at Arkansas State University.
Johnny was a huge proponent of helping young singers and songwriters. Larry Gatlin, one of the performers at Saturday night's show, can testify to that. His first job as a songwriter in Nashville was writing songs for Johnny’s movie The Gospel Road.
Larry joined friends Vince Gill, Jimmy Fortune, Joanne Cash and Tommy Cash for a concert filled with hits that brought the audience to its feet numerous times throughout the evening.
Tommy and Joanne opened with “Ring of Fire.” Larry and his brothers Steve and Rudy provided stunning harmonies on classics including “Broken Lady,” “Houston” and “All the Gold.” Larry also sang “Johnny Cash Is Dead and His House Burned Down,” explaining it was written as the result of his son, Josh Cash Gatlin, asking him what was happening in Nashville these days.
Jimmy ran through the repertoire of songs he wrote for the Statler Brothers during his 21-year stint with that group, among them “Elizabeth,” “Too Much on My Heart” and “More Than a Name on a Wall.” He talked about hearing all the stories they told about their eight years with Johnny, joking, “I always told them they started out with Cash but ended up with a Fortune.”
Vince closed the show, recounting how he met Johnny through Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash. He played to the crowd, asking, “Are you ready for some country music?” and launching into “One More Last Chance,” “When I Call Your Name” and “Pocketful of Gold.” He and steel guitar player Paul Franklin performed a few of the songs from their new album, Bakersfield, including the Buck Owens classic “Foolin’ Around” and Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down.” He also played a song he and Rodney wrote together in the classic Johnny Cash style, “Oklahoma Dust.”
The entire cast came onstage to close the show with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Amazing Grace."
Vince summed up the evening by saying, “It’s a great opportunity to be there with old friends. Larry and his brothers are great. Jimmy Fortune is just a world-class, kind human being. What we’re doing is raising some money for people to have a chance to have an education, and why wouldn’t you take a night out of your life to do that?”