“I always loved Johnny Cash, and Johnny loved me,” says Lynn, on her daughter’s cell phone as they roll on a tour bus to Lynn’s next gig in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“Me and June were a lot alike. We looked alike and acted alike, so he had two of us!”
Lynn is focusing on Cash now, since she’s sharing the bill at this year’s fourth annual Johnny Cash Music Festival with fellow Country Music Hall of Famers Reba McEntire and Bobby Bare. The event is again slated for Aug. 15 at Arkansas State University’s Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
“Johnny would give to anybody,” recalls Lynn. “He was such a good guy. To know him was to love him, you know, and everybody loved Johnny Cash.”
Lynn frequently worked with the Cash show, which featured country music’s historic Carter Family, then comprised of matriarch Mother Maybelle Carter and her daughters Anita, Helen and June Carter.
“I think we were related,” says Lynn, who hails from Butcher Hollow, Ky.--which she immortalized in her autobiographical hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter."
“Mama Maybelle’s people weren’t far from where I come from," she continues, noting additional family likenesses. "I haven’t checked back, but I know we are too much alike. Anita looked like me, too, and we sounded and acted alike.”
Lynn currently sustains her relationship with the Cash and Carter families by working with John Carter Cash, Johnny and June’s son.
“I call him Little Johnny—but he’s bigger than his daddy,” she says. “When we did shows together, Johnny would tell me to take care of that kid.”
But now it’s the other way around, as Lynn has cut some 90 tracks—“some new songs and some not”--at John Carter’s Cash Cabin Studio, where most of his parents’ later music was recorded. And she relates a truly “weird” experience there, when she saw what appeared to be a man in a Civil War outfit walk through the door.
“I almost quit singing!” she exclaims. “I told them all I’d just seen a vision of Johnny Cash—but I don’t think nobody believed me!”
For the time being, though, she’s just excited to participate in the Johnny Cash Music Festival, singling out one co-headliner in particular.
“Who don’t love Bobby Bare?” she asks, Bare being one of her 1960s country music contemporaries, who like Cash also enjoyed pop crossover success back then.
So it’s full speed ahead for the venerable Coal Miner’s Daughter.
“I still enjoy it, oh yeah!” she says of her touring schedule.
"If artists don’t enjoy it [performing], they need to quit!”
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