After Blues Tonight, Cash In

This appeared in The Commercial Dispatch - November 1, 2007

A steel cell door in the Oktibbeha County Jail still bears a dent they say was put there by the late Johnny Cash in May 1965. The Man in Black spent a frustrated night as an involuntary guest there after perhaps a bit too much revelry and pickin' a few flowers where he shouldn't have.

Forty-two years later, the iconic artist is being honored - and symbolically pardoned -at the Pardon Johnny Cash Flower Pickin' Festival Nov. 2 - 4, 2007 in Starkville, Mississippi. A weekend of special guests and live music will celebrate the man Cash became and the enormous legacy he left behind.

While the music focus may be on Saturday's all-day line-up culminating with headliners Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, festival events get underway Friday with lectures and a community-wide social beginning at 2 p.m. at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house where the 11-time Grammy winner performed during his '65 visit.

A 7 p.m. live charity auction at the Pike house features some Cash memorabilia, including a Martin guitar signed by Marty Stuart and Cash's family. Stroll outside for the 8 p.m. showing of “Walk the Line,” the 2005 biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash, at the Mississippi State University Amphitheater.

Late partyers can catch the New Jersey based Johnny Cash tribute band Ring of Fire Friday night at Rick's Cafe, presented by WMSV 91.1. The group also performs at 6 p.m. Saturday on the festival stage.

Music on Main

Saturday festivities begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Starkville Public Library as Marshall Grant, Johnny Cash's longtime bass player and road manager, will be on hand to discuss his book, “I Was There When It Happened, My Life With Johnny Cash.”

Beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday on Starkville's Main Street, a host of country, bluegrass and country rock bands will fuel the festival mood.

The line-up includes regional favorites such as Nash Street and the Larry Wallace Band as well Jordan Carter and KingBilly, both of Nashville, Tenn., and award-winning picker, singer and songwriter Jimmy Tittle of Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Tittle was a member of Cash's band for many years, has co-written with such as Marty Stuart and Roseanne Cash, and is married to Cash's daughter, Kathy. Kathy, as well as Big John's sister, Joanne, are both scheduled to be at the festival.

Following a “pardon ceremony” soon after 8 p.m., Marty Stuart and the (truly) Fabulous Superlatives entertain from ??:30 - until......” The Philadelphia native is riding a creative wave and has become one of Nashville's most prolific performers, as adept at gospel as he is at traditional country, rockabilly or jamming up a storm with Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes.

The Superlatives are Kenny Vaughan, Harry Stinson and Brian Glenn. Anyone who has witnessed this group live will get the critic who said, “These men are more than a band, they're a weapon.” If the past is any indicator - and it usually is - this should be a heck of a show.

While the festival is technically free, a donation of $10 is suggested. Proceeds will benefit the Starkville Boys and Girls Club and the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum.

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