Public Presentations

The Ties That Bind

Oct. 18-19, 2018

Johnny Cash on the Back Porch of the Boyhood Home
Johnny Cash on the Back Porch of the Boyhood Home


The 2018 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival will include a a symposium, “The Ties That Bind,” consisting of film screenings and discussions from noon to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, and public presentations from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19.  The “ties” embrace  the Great Depression, New Deal and agricultural programs that brought colonists together;  cultural touchstones that tied Dyess to other communities or to the 1930s-40s; influences such as the impact of earlier artists or contemporaries on Johnny Cash, or the influence of Johnny Cash on contemporaries or later artists.

All sessions are open to the public.   There will be no admission fee, but participants are asked to register for sessions in advance, utilizing the online registration form, to assist in ensuring adequate space.


John Alexander

John Alexander is author of the recently released biography of Johnny Cash that explores the music legend’s life through his songs. “The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash,” was published in April  by the University of Arkansas Press.  Alexander,  a music journalist and historian, has spent years studying the life and music of Cash from his Arkansas childhood through his 2003 death. He began his career as an assistant professor of English at St. John’s University before moving on to a role as the senior music editor and producer for Reader’s Digest. In 2013, he joined Time Life Music as an artist and repertoire consultant. Currently, he is a songwriter, music producer and senior editor at The Brooklyn Daily Eaglein New York.

Noted entertainment journalist Jim Bessman describes Alexander’s book as a “breakdown of chapters focusing on autobiographical, geographical, societal and story songs and historic periods like Cash’s breakout Sun records years and final American Recordings output.” In addition, the publication takes a look at songs influenced by Cash’s personal life, including prison recordings, gospel songs and songs written by people who Cash admired and respected.


Thursday, October 18, 2018


O Brother Where Art Thou

Screening and discussion of  iconic Coen Brothers film  “O Brother Where Art Thou,” set in Mississippi during the Great Depression.  Loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey,” the movie deals with the adventures of Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) and his companions who escape from a chain gang and attempt to recover  buried loot from a bank heist.   The  soundtrack includes 2018 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival performer Alison Krauss performing “Down to the River to Pray.”

Moderator – Dr. Heath Carpenter, Harding University

2:30 p.m.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

This 2008 documentary is being presented In honor of the 50th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison performance, In 1968, Cash’s concert at California’s Folsom Prison was recorded for a live album. Cash delivered one of the greatest performances of his life that day, full of empathy for the inmates that made up his audience.  The resulting album was a surprise hit, reestablishing Cash as one of country music’s most powerful and respected artists.

Moderator – Michael Streissguth, Le Moyne College, writer and producer of the Folsom Prison documentary

Friday, October 19, 2018

9:00 a.m.

Ties of Childhood:  Johnny Cash’s Early Musical Influences

Gospel Hymns and the Grand Ole Opry:  The Music That Influenced John R. Cash.  Christian Stanfield, Memphis, Tennessee

Moderator – Dr. Adam Long, Arkansas State University Heritage Sites

10:00 a.m.

Reflections of Johnny Cash in Popular Culture

Measuring Johnny Cash’s Portrayal of the Inmate Experience: A Comparison of Cash’s “I Got Stripes” and Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice.  Jessica Kelleher, Le Moyne College

Cash Fully Loaded: Perspectives on Johnny Cash’s “Drive On” and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.  Lauren Zazzaro, Le Moyne College

Moderator – Dr. Catherine Calloway, Arkansas State University

11:00 a.m.

Ties Beyond Dyess:  Little Rock, San Antonio, and Beyond

The Dyess Colony Project and Arkansas’s Tradition of Localism. Dr. Revis Edmonds, Old Statehouse Museum

Johnny Cash in San Antonio: 1950 and 1954.  Dr. Daniel Long, St. Mary’s University

Moderator: Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, Arkansas State University

1:00 p.m.

Memories of a Lifetime

Update on the Dyess Memories of  a Lifetime Project.  Ben Manatt, director, Bentonville High School  EAST Initiative, and EAST students.

Moderators – Dr. Ed Salo and Dr. Mike Bowman, Arkansas State University

2:00 p.m.

Shared Voices:  Johnny Cash and His Contemporaries

Johnny and Barbara – Hardscrabble Days, Success on the Charts. Connected by Delta Childhoods, Two Voices with A Shared Heritage.  Anthony Childress, Arkansas State University

Petty Cash: Ties that Bind with a Southern Accent. LaDawn Fuhr, Arkansas State University

Moderator – Dr. Deborah Chappel Traylor, Arkansas State University

3:00 p.m.

Keynote Speaker

John Alexander, author of The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash.

Moderator: Dr. Carl Cates, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, Arkansas State University

4:00 p.m.

Book Signing


JCHF Public Presentations Committee
c/o Dr. Adam Long, Chair
Arkansas State University
Heritage Site
P.O. Box 2050
State University, AR 72467
Phone: 870-972-2803