Music documentary

Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ documentary to premiere ahead of Cash Festival in Dyess

Johnny Cash, the son of farmers who grew up in Dyess Colony in the delta region of northeast Arkansas, was mesmerized. Since childhood, the aspiring musician wanted to hear his own voice on the radio. He had served in the service and returned to the area to begin his musical career.

One evening, he sat in the crowd and listened to Elvis Presley perform from the back of a flatbed truck at a drugstore opening in Memphis. It was time for him to go visit Sam Phillips, the man who discovered Elvis. He practiced for months before finally deciding to meet Phillips. After several failures, he finally got a session with rock-n-roll’s first kingmaker. Cash mostly sang gospel, and Phillips told him he couldn’t sell music in that genre, but he heard something unique in Cash’s voice.

A new star was about to be born.

Cash is said to have a Hall of Fame career and is considered one of the great musicians of his day. His childhood home in Dyess is now a museum, and the annual Heritage Cash festival is scheduled for October.

One of the opening acts will take place this Saturday (August 31) at the Dyess Visitor Center.

Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) and Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home will present a special preview of “Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns,” with screenings at 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

The preview is free and open to the public on a first come, first seated basis. The preview will include clips from several episodes of the eight-part, 16-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and co-produced with Dayton Duncan, Julie Dunfey and Pam Baucom. The series will premiere on AETN Television Network on Sunday, September 15 at 7 p.m.

“Country Music” explores the history and roots of country music by telling the stories of the pioneers who influenced country music through the generations, including Arkansas’ Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash Heritage Festival 2019 “Cotton Field Concert” headliners Rosanne Cash and Marty Stuart are featured prominently in the documentary and all-star concert “Country Music: Live at the Ryman” which will air on PBS September 8. from 7 to 9 p.m., and stream on and the PBS apps.

Baucom will also participate in a special presentation hosted by Rosanne Cash on Friday October 18 at the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess.

Two Grammy winners will headline a benefit concert at the festival in the cotton field adjacent to the Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess. Musicians Marty Stuart and Rosanne Cash will perform at the concert on Saturday afternoon, October 19, as the culmination of the three-day festival, themed “Legacy, Love and Music”.

After successful music events at Arkansas State University’s First National Bank Arena beginning in 2011, the benefit event was expanded to a three-day Heritage Festival in 2017 and moved to Dyess.

John Alexander, author of the recently released biography of Johnny Cash which details the music legend’s life through his songs, will headline the list of speakers at the festival’s symposium. Alexander, a music journalist and historian, published “The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash,” published by University of Arkansas Press in April. He spent years studying Cash’s life and music from his childhood in Arkansas until his death in 2003.