Nearly 10 years after his death, Johnny Cash can still draw a crowd to the Ryman Auditorium.
On Wednesday morning, the Ryman opened to the public for the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s new Forever stamp of Johnny Cash along with a free concert.
People traveled from around the country and the world to Nashville for the 2013 Country Music Association Festival. And for some, the Johnny Cash event kicked the festival off in earnest.
Roger Ryan, an Ireland native, said he attended Johnny Cash’s first show in his home country in the late 1960s.
“He is one of the most popular artists ever to visit Ireland and he was one of the first to come,” Ryan said. “And of course he recorded ‘40 Shades of Green’ so we loved him for that and claim that song as our own.”
Ryan attends the CMA Music Festival every year and says he's friends with Bob Wootton who played lead guitar for Johnny Cash for 33 years. Ryan had already purchased his stamps before the concert started.
“It is a great honor really because it is the U.S. Postal Service that decides who gets their own stamp because you have to be pretty significant and he is worthy of the honor,” Ryan said. “Usually it is people like presidents on the stamps, but it is nice to see someone like Johnny being rewarded like this.
“I think it has to do with not just his music, but who he was as a person,” Ryan added. “His music led to a lot of other things, and he was always a good human being, a kind person and a man of great faith.”
Burdette and Bev Conner arrived in Nashville Wednesday morning from Iowa after a 12-hour drive.
“I have been a Johnny Cash fan for as long as I can remember,” said Burdette Conner. “His being on the stamp shows how much of a pioneer he was for country music. He was one of the first.”
Dave Young and his wife Karen, of Hendersonville, attended the concert and said they live a block away from Cash’s grave. The couple moved to Tennessee from California two years ago and while on the West Coast, they lived two miles from Folsom Prison.
“I have been a fan for a long time,” Dave Young said. “And this event shows how he was able to reach all kinds of people from a lot of different generations.”
“We definitely bought the stamps because this is so special,” Karen Young said. “He epitomized country music, and he always sang from his heart. His music will always live on.”
Ryan thought it was special to see people paying due homage to the country music icon.
“You just mention his name and everybody knows who he is,” Ryan said. “Seeing all age groups here is the real sign of a true star, and as often happens when you listen to Johnny Cash, you truly discover country music.”