Having had a few days to catch his breath, Bill Carter can now look back at the fourth annual Johnny Cash Music Festival—held again at the Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center in Jonesboro on Aug. 15–and assess what it might take to top it.
The SRO concert brought together Reba McEntire, Loretta Lynn and Bobby Bare—all Country Music Hall of Fame inductees—and was hosted by Southern gospel superstar Mark Lowry.
“A lot of people wanted to emcee, but I know Mark and knew what he could do to a crowd and decided to use him,” says Carter. “And once Reba said she would do it, I needed to properly complement her with other artists who wouldn’t take anything away from her.”
This, of course, is where Lynn and Bare came in.
“Two legends don’t sell many tickets, but coupled with Reba, they were much more appealing as an arena draw than they would be otherwise. And then the magic of the music works so well: We went pretty much from 1960 or so to the present historically. We covered 54 years of great music, and the people in the audience were there to witness it all! It’s hard to get living legends like that, because after all, Loretta’s 82 and Bobby’s 79, and not many of those legends are able to perform like that—there are very few of that generation that are living and can perform.”
“It just made it a great show,” Carter adds. “Being able to have Loretta and Bobby and Reba on the same show! All are in the Hall of Fame and will live on forever in their music and images—and it was a great complement to Johnny Cash.”
Even though there’s still plenty of work to be done, the restoration of The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in nearby Dyess, Ark., which the Johnny Cash Music Festival was created to help fund (along with other Depression Era Dyess farm community buildings and a scholarship program in Cash’s name), is finished and open to the public.
“No one’s talking about next year yet, but if there’s a show in 2015, it will have to be a big one!” Carter suggests, then reconsiders.
“We might match it, but the best thing is not to try to top it. How do you top the Rolling Stones? You don’t. You just offer something different, and I think that will be the case here.”
Which isn’t to say that if Garth Brooks should come aboard, “we might put together a similar package,” says Carter. “But it’s not easy to get artists to do something like this, so rather than try to outdo this year—and I’m not even sure that’s possible—we might choose something more diverse. Maybe an appropriate pop act that sells the same amount of tickets and raises as much money and is just as satisfying.”
[The Examiner wrote the Foreward to Bill Carter’s memoir Get Carter–Backstage In History From JFK’s Assassination To The Rolling Stones.]
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