Jason Edwards on Johnny Cash

Jason Edwards starred on Broadway in Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash at the Barrymore Theatre, and is featured on the original cast recording produced by John Carter Cash. Jason is directing and starring in Ring of Fire at Arkansas Repertory Theatre Sept. 14 through Oct. 9. Photography by Cindy Momchilov.

Like many other singers and musicians who come from rural American places, young J.R. Cash learned to sing and play guitar from listening to old hymns.

When he first arrived at Sun Studios in Memphis as a young aspiring performer, his hopes were to land a record deal as a Gospel singer. After his first audition, Producer Sam Phillips told him that Gospel music wouldn’t sell records and to come back when he had written something that would. So he left and wrote “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Hey Porter.”

He returned to Memphis and these two songs became his first recordings for Sun. Needless to say, the rest is history. Hundreds of hits followed, and also the birth of the rockabilly sound.

From a dirt-poor boy who grew up on a cotton farm to a rock’n’roll icon and country outlaw, underneath his image and fame as “The Man in Black” was a very patriotic American and a deeply spiritual Christian man. Throughout his life, he battled with demons and sang to angels, but he never lost sight of who he was or where he came from. He wrote and sang about what he knew and believed in—the things and people thatwere most important to him. To many, he was the voice of the forgotten and overlooked. Near the end of his life he recorded an album of Gospel songs his mother sang called “My Mother’s Hymn Book,” and of all his recordings he considered this his finest work.

Ring of Fire, The Music of Johnny Cash is a collection of Mr. Cash’s enormous catalog and variety of songs. It is the only theatrical show he ever gave his approval for and endorsed. William Meade and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s concept was never to have someone impersonate Mr. Cash, but to get underneath his image and present what he was trying to say in his lyrics. And to select performers who in some way might convey the essence of his southern style and roots.

It’s our pleasure to perform for you and celebrate some of the words and music of Mr. John R. Cash.

— Jason Edwards

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