Johnny Cash’s Legacy Gives Birth to Roadshow Revival
Johnny Cash’s local ties, stories from his daughter Cindy and the birth of Roadshow Revival’s popular tribute festival – it’s all here!
Two brothers and a little Cash
Local boys, Ross and Toby Emery, grew up with the sounds of the Southern Rock and Country legends of the 60s & 70s. The brothers recall many road trips with their mother, listening to 8-track tapes as they tooled along in the back seat of the old Mustang. These early music-filled rides seeded their connection to bands such as the Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams and, of course, Johnny Cash. Johnny seemed to be one of the standouts and, like so many of us, the guys identified with his themes and how they echoed the times we were in.
Raging Arb and the Readheads, circa 1985
As young adults, the brothers, with the help of local guitar legend Chris Byrd, learned their instruments. And they practiced hard – Toby on the guitar and brother Ross on the drums. Along with childhood friends, they formed the band Raging Arb and the Redheads. They took their roots from the Sun Recording Studio sounds and musicians like Cash and, in true Johnny form, the band added in their own bit of good old-fashioned hell raising each time they played! As time went on and they worked at perfecting there musical craft, Ross and Toby longed to create something that would help preserve the tradition of country and folk-style music for future generations. And they had a really good idea of how to do that.
Roadshow Revival is born
Toby Emery, Cardboard Johnny and Ross Emery
The brothers wanted to pay homage to the legends that had influenced so many and, at the same time, inspire up-and-coming musicians in helping to keep these traditions alive. So they planted the seed for Roadshow Revival knowing that these roots would grow into something special.
In 2009, with the support of the Cash family, namely Cindy Cash, Johnny’s daughter, and his brother Toby, Ross Emery produced the first Johnny Cash Music Festival in Ventura County.
CIndy Cash, Kat Merrick and Ross Emery
The following year, Emery bought the majority stake in the event and Cindy Cash gladly joined the production team. Since then, Roadshow Revival has become one of the biggest tribute festivals on the West Coast with fans pouring in from all over the world. Ross Emery Entertainment and Cindy Cash guarantee that this year will be bigger and better than ever as they bring their annual homage to the Man in Black to Johnny Cash’s old stomping grounds on June 27th and 28th, 2015 at Mission Park in Downtown Ventura.
The Man in Black
We’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose. In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes. But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back. Up front there ought to be a man in black.
— Johnny Cash
His distinctive baritone voice with its crackling southern accent needed no introduction. But it always came with his own style, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
Mr Cash, the Man in Black, with his tough “outlaw” image, his defiant attitude and yet soft demeanor, echoed a life that seemed often tumultuous. His songs sang out with underlying social meanings and expressed his disgust at injustice. Yet there was something soothing about his music and singing style – that voice just draws you in and you cannot help but admire him. Johnny Cash and his music have touched so many and is credited by thousands of musicians as being a key influence in their own musical careers.
Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight.
— Johnny Cash
Perhaps part of his appeal is that he seemed to be one of us. The son of poor cotton farmers, whose economic and personal struggles during the Depression, shaped him as a person and inspired many of his songs. Even to this day, his fan base remains diverse and seems to cross all borders and peoples. Musicians, truck drivers, homemakers, trash collectors, farmers, felons, even presidents and folks like me and you are Johnny Cash fans. Maybe it is because he seemed to be the embodiment of the American dream – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Coming up from nothing, fighting against wrong and becoming a legend.
Johnny disliked being defined as a “country” artist. He commented many times that his music wasn’t really genre-defined and felt that he often stood well outside of the Nashville sounds. Listening, you realize that his music actually contains elements of rock ‘n’ roll, folk, bluegrass, blues, country and, yes, even gospel.
In the years before his death, he was still recording songs including cover versions of U2‘s One, Depeche Mode‘s Personal Jesus, Richard Thompson‘s Tear Stained Letter, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Tom Petty‘s I Won’t Back Down, Loudon Wainwright III‘s The Man Who Couldn’t Cry, Ewan MacColl‘s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and the song Thirteen written especially for him by gothic rocker Glenn Danzig.
One day, while driving along the Ventura County Coast into the Ojai area with his manager, Johnny Cash stumbled across the Ojai Valley. He would later remark that he thought he had found the perfect spot for his parents and family. In the summer of 1961, two weeks after the birth of their youngest daughter Tara, the Cash family moved to a 12-acre estate ranch high on the hilltop above the community of Casitas Springs. He also bought a trailer park north of Oak View, renamed it the Johnny Cash Trailer Rancho and asked his parents to come out and run it. The trailer park was located on the west side of Ventura Avenue, just north of Willey Street. (Yep, it’s still there but now called the Country Village Mobile Home Park.)
Johnny Cash was a country boy who preferred to live where he could hunt and fish and raise a little occasional hell. The Ojai Valley was definitely his kind of place and he loved the folks that lived there. Johnny spent a lot of time fishing at Lake Casitas and it is believed that he wrote his biggest hit, Ring of Fire, with Merle Kilgore while floating on a boat on the lake.
Back in the 60s, the Southern Pacific Railroad still ran orange trains from Ventura to the packing house in Ojai. It is said that the trains passing through Casitas Springs may be what inspired Mr Cash to cover the classic tune Orange Blossom Special which became one of the Top 10 hits for him in 1965.
The Cash family in the early 60s. L-R: Kathleen, Tara, Vivian, Johnny and Cindy
Cindy Cash told me stories of Christmas with her father where he would set off fireworks (a family tradition) and used large flood lights to illuminate a big aluminum cross he put up on the hill above the house. He would set up loudspeakers and blare Christmas carols so that the whole town could hear. She said he was so shocked one year when some of the locals started complaining about all the noise from up on the hill. He grumbled, “I didn’t think there was a Scrooge left,” and marched over and pulled the plug right in the middle of Joy to the World.
There are numerous stories by locals and I wish I could share them all. While many have their own opinions about Johnny Cash, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that our community was very lucky to have had him here, even if only for a short while, and that his children and first wife Vivian were a vital part of this area we call home.
I hear that train a comin’ – the 2015 Johnny Cash tribute festival
Ross Emery Entertainment presents Roadshow Revival’s A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash on June 27th and 28th, 2015 at Mission Park in Downtown Ventura.
One of the largest tribute concerts on the West Coast returns in full swing in 2015 as A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash takes over beautiful Mission Park in Downtown Ventura. The seventh annual event will feature popular outlaw country, rockabilly, bluegrass and Johnny Cash tribute bands, plus a pin-up girl pageant, hot rods, custom cars and motorcycles, Johnny Cash memorabilia, a guided tour of Johnny Cash’s legacy in Ventura, food and beverage, a kid’s corral and scores of vendors with unique offerings and collectibles.
Come and join in the fun!
More info Roadshow Revival’s A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash
Dates: Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, 2015
Location: Mission Park, Downtown Ventura, 185 East Santa Clara St. Ventura, CA 93001.
Time: Saturday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm; VIP early entrance at 10:30 am
Admission: General admission, pre-sale two-day passes are $45 online, one-day tickets are $30 Saturday, $20 Sunday; active military receive “Two for One” (valid government issued ID required); car show registration is $40 (includes one vehicle and one driver). VIP and preferred seating available. Kids 6 – 12 are $5. Kids 5 and under are free.
Mailing Address: PO Box 7053,Ventura, CA 93006
Contact: Ross Emery
Lineup: This year’s lineup includes Rockabilly virtuosos The Reverend Horton Heat; outlaw-country legend Billy Joe Shaver; roots rockers The Blasters; Big Sandy and his Fly Rite Boys, John Doe from seminal LA punk band X; Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats; Rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon; Gamblers Mark; Jamie James and the Kingbees; Petunia and the Vipers; Big River; 50 Sticks of Dynamite; Matt Armor; Big Tweed; Highway Starr, Hard Six, a tribute to the Million Dollar Quartet featuring Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins; more acts to be announced.
Image credits: Carlos Avila, Roadshow Revival and Kat Merrick
Learn more about author Kat Merrick