Johnny Cash 80th birthday celebrated in Dyess

Friday, March 2, 2012

Family members of Johnny Cash gathered together Sunday with hundreds of fans in the Dyess Community Center to pay tribute to Johnny Cash on what would have been his 80th birthday.

Cash's daughter Rosanne Cash, his son John Carter Cash, sister Joanne Cash Yates and his brother Tommy Cash each reminisced about Johnny and performed songs as a tribute, including "No One Here Gets Out Alive" and "Hey, Porter."

Rosanne Cash said that paying tribute in Dyess during Arkansas State University's official launch of the restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home seemed fitting.

"I think we're celebrating in a way he would have found most fitting," she said. "Each of the Cash family members has a little bit of that gumbo soil in us."

"We talk a lot about my father," John Carter Cash said. "His image spread across the world, but it all started here. His fortitude started here."

Joanne Cash Yates said she was "in absolute awe that the piano momma played in the farmhouse has been kept and will be restored." That piano was on display during the tribute. "They say you can't go back," she said, "but Tommy and I are going to get to go back and walk in that house."

Rosanne Cash's sisters, Kathy and Cindy, also spoke. They said they had gone through a collection of items that belonged to Johnny Cash when he lived in Dyess and had picked out items to be donated to the museum, such as his 12th grade report card and his prom dance card.

The sisters expressed thanks to everyone for getting the project off the ground. "Especially Mom for saving everything," Kathy said.

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Project will include the restoration of the Cash home and outbuildings, as well as the restoration of the Dyess Colony Theater and the Dyess Administration Building. Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of ASU's Arkansas Heritage Studies, said the project also will include a walking/biking trail that will connect Dyess Colony Center with the Cash Boyhood Home. The total cost of the restoration and construction is expected to be $3,400,000.

Dr. Hawkins said the project will tell the story of Dyess Colony, the agricultural resettlement created as part of the New Deal, in addition to telling the story of the Cash family as colonists and how growing up in Dyess affected J.R. Cash and helped him become the international icon Johnny Cash.

Tommy Cash (from left), John Carter Cash and John Leventhal perform at The Johnny Cash 80th Birthday Tribute in Dyess. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

Dyess Mayor Larry Sims said the project will create 100 jobs in the surrounding area and that $9 million a year is expected to rotate through the region.

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