When Queanbeyan singer and mechanic Jason Webb launched the idea for an annual festival dedicated to Johnny Cash in 2020, he could never have known a global pandemic was about to hit.

The first annual Queanbeyan Johnny Cash Festival was announced in 2020, with the inaugural festival due to be held in 2021. The event, like hundreds of others in the region, was cancelled due to COVID.

Now, 12 months later, organisers are still at the mercy of the international health crisis but are launching the festival “in a small way” in late February “to keep the dream alive”.

Festival founder Jason Webb (centre) with his band. Photo: Justin Smith

“February 26th would have been Johnny Cash’s 90th birthday,” Webb says.

“It’s such a momentous occasion we’ve decided to put on a bit of a toned down event, with two Cash tribute artists for people to enjoy.

“People will be able to get their I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire and Jackson fixes and celebrate the absolute legend Cash was.”

The smaller scale event will be a concert at the Yass Road Bowling Club, from 6pm on Friday 25 February 2022. Webb will be joined at the event by Canberra act Lemvis, a Cash and Elvis tribute artist.

Webb’s vision for the Johnny Cash Festival is inspired by the Parkes Elvis Festival, an annual event that draws thousands of mutton-chopped, white lycra-clad Elvis fans from across the world to Parkes, NSW.

In 2013, Webb hosted his own version of the San Quentin Prison gig, known as San Qbn. He may just roll it out again in 2023.

It is hoped that in 2023 Queanbeyan will host an entire weekend dedicated to the man in black, in an attempt to inject some serious tourism dollars into the Queanbeyan economy. As well as headline acts, the festival will include more creative tributes to Cash, held in pubs, clubs and other smaller venues across the city. 

“It has the potential to be an annual event and to be huge,” Webb says.

“I just want to see Queanbeyan open its arms to tourists from far and wide, and get creative and excited about the legend that was Johnny Cash.

“We’re talking about the potential for a million dollar cash injection into the city.”

Cash gave photographers this iconic shot at his 1969 San Quentin State Prison gig.

Webb says that despite Johnny Cash’s death in 2003, his music lives on in Australia and across the world.

“It’s the kind of music Aussie kids grew up on – mum or dad would always be playing a Johnny Cash tape in the car or on the stereo during parties,” Webb says.

“The hum of the train-like, chugging guitar, Johnny’s deep, calm voice, I’m definitely not the only one who loves the sound of Cash.”

Johnny Cash 90th birthday concert, Friday 25 February 2022, from 6pm, Queanbeyan RSL Memorial Bowling Club. For more details head to the Country Rocks Facebook page or Webb’s AKA Johnny Cash Facebook page

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