‘Queen of Country Music’ Loretta Lynn To Headline Johnny Cash Music Festival; Tickets Selling Fast
Special to Arkansas State University
By: Jim Bessman
JONESBORO, Ark. — This year’s fourth Johnny Cash Music Festival, slated for Aug. 15 at Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center in Jonesboro, boasts none other than the Queen of Country Music herself, Loretta Lynn. And she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I always loved Johnny Cash,” she says, “and Johnny loved me!” And being born just a few months apart in 1932, they were both of the same classic country music generation.
“I worked a lot with Johnny and June and Maybelle and the rest of the Carter Family,” says Lynn, from her tour bus on the way to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. “We’d get together with him and June every chance we’d get.”
Here Lynn points out something that readily becomes obvious.
“Me and June were a lot alike! We looked alike and acted alike, so he had two of us! So he was happy!”
Lynn, who is headlining the Cash Fest bill along with Bobby Bare and Reba McEntire, observes that the Carter Family came out of southwestern Virginia, not too far from her hometown of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky—immortalized in her autobiographical hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
“I think we’re related,” she declares, again invoking June Carter Cash’s mother and Carter Sisters matriarch Mother Maybelle Carter.
“I haven’t checked back, but I know we are. Mama Maybelle’s people aren’t far from where mine came from, and we’re too much alike. And Anita [June Carter’s sister] looked like me, too, and we all sounded alike and acted alike!”
Lynn’s kinship with the Cash family now extends to the next generation, as she has been recording of late with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s son John Carter Cash at his Cash Cabin Studio, where most of his parents’ later music was recorded.
“I call him ‘Little Johnny,’ but he’s bigger than his daddy,” Lynn says of John Carter. “I took care of him when he was a kid and we were doing shows together with Johnny.”
Lynn has cut some 90 tracks at the cabin, she relates, “some new songs, and some not.”
She further recounts a truly “weird” experience: “We were cutting a Johnny Cash song, and here comes this guy through the door in an outfit that they wore back in the Civil War—and it was Johnny! I almost quit singing! I told them all I’d just seen a vision of Johnny Cash, but I don’t think nobody believed me.”
As for her spot in the upcoming Johnny Cash Music Festival, she’s happy to share billing with her friends McEntire, event host Mark Lowry, and especially Bare, who like Cash enjoyed pop crossover success in the early 1960s with hits like “Detroit City” and “500 Miles Away from Home.”
“Who don’t love Bobby Bare?” Lynn asks rhetorically, then notes how when she cut her first record, “Honky Tonk Girl,” she cut a Bare song that was never released but was “a heck of a good song.” At that time, of course, Conway Twitty had already experienced his own major pop hit success before settling into a Country Music Hall of Fame career as a solo artist and in a celebrated duet partnership with Lynn that earned the duo the Country Music Association’s Vocal Duo of the Year award for four straight years (1972–1975).
“Nobody sings like Conway Twitty,” she says of her late partner, who died in 1993. “Lots of people try, but none do.”
Lynn holds her annual Remembering Conway event on Fourth of July weekend at her Loretta Lynn’s Ranch tourist attraction in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. Then in August she’ll help remember Johnny Cash, and aide in the Johnny Cash Music Festival’s goal of raising money to restore his boyhood home in nearby Dyess, Ark., and fund a scholarship program in his name.
“Johnny would give to anybody,” she says. “He was such a good guy. To know him was to love him, you know, and everybody loved Johnny Cash.”
Lynn knows of what she speaks. People love Johnny Cash, as well as the line-up to this year’s show, as Arkansas State’s box office is reporting that tickets are going fast.
"Tickets for this concert have sold very quickly," said Haley Stout, Manager of the University’s Central Box Office. "I encourage anyone who wants to see it to get their tickets as soon as they can because we have only a few at each price level left and we expect an early sell-out."
Tickets for the Johnny Cash Music Festival are on sale now and available at Arkansas State’s Central Box Office (1-888-278-3267) and online at Tickets.AState.edu. Tickets can also be purchased by logging onto the official website of the Johnny Cash Music Festival: JohnnyCashMusicFest.com.