Concert a huge success

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the recent past in Arkansas one of the great success stories has been the development of the northwest corner of the state.

Population growth, employment opportunities and a general increase in the quality of life have been the hallmarks of what has come to be known as the Northwest Arkansas Corridor.

From an economic point of view, that area of the state has become the envy of other areas of Arkansas.

The concept of regionalism has been pushed over here on the other side of the state, Northeast Arkansas, for some time now. There has been progress made in that regard, but there is still plenty of room for the forging of a more common bond.

With that background in mind, we term the recent Johnny Cash Music Festival at Jonesboro quite a success.

We saw friends and neighbors from throughout our corner of the state at the sold-out event at the Convocation Center.

It was a wonderful night of musical entertainment, but it also served as a great boost to the ambitious restoration of Dyess Colony, Cash's Mississippi County boyhood home.

Northeast Arkansas became a musical and cultural focus for that night not only throughout the state and nation, but also internationally. Bill Carter, a native of Rector and the key talent organizer for the event, said he received phone calls and e-mails from around the world as the concert arrived.

Carter mentioned Australia and Scotland as just two of the countries of origin for those messages. It shows once again the unique worldwide interest in Johnny Cash and his genuine American music.

The entertainers, including members of Cash's family, were eloquent and powerful in their explanation of the intense loyalty that Cash generated among his friends and fans.

Kris Kristofferson, one of Cash's greatest lifelong friends, acknowledged he was in awe of "The Man in Black".

Kristofferson, who thrilled the audience with such songs as "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Me and Bobby McGee", said he actually was somewhat intimidated by Cash. "He was the most powerful human being I have ever met," he told the audience.

Carter made a similar point in a phone call after the concert, adding that he now wishes he had become better acquainted with Cash over the years. But he also expressed the sense that Cash was larger than life and he (Carter) was somewhat hesitant, as a result, to engage him in conversation.

The late June Carter Cash, his second wife, once cited the charisma of her husband in a convincing manner, noting that, on a stage-full of entertainers and stars (no matter who they might be), all eyes turned to Johnny Cash when he arrived. He had that kind of personal magnetism and appeal.

The sense of common purpose certainly was on stage and felt throughout the audience at the ASU-sponsored event. There was goodwill galore directed to the great lineup of artists, but there also was a sense that those attending were supporting a very worthwhile cause, the development of a cultural and historical site that will tell a truly Arkansas story.

Johnny Cash never forgot his rural Arkansas roots as he scaled the heights of worldwide fame.

Northeast Arkansas reveres the life of a true native son and also can celebrate one more step taken together in building a regional framework that will serve us all well in the future.