Hello Stranger from Issue #42
This issue, in many ways, felt like a landmark for us. First and foremost is our cover subject, something that’s been in the works for a good while.
It’s rather obvious that Johnny Cash is a natural for our magazine’s cover. Not only does he represent a great deal of what alternative country wishes to embody at its best, but he’s directly tied to the family line that’s largely responsible for giving our magazine its name.
The cover photo was taken in Seattle by Charles Peterson in July 1995, as we were busily assembling our debut issue, which came out in September of that year. Both Grant and I still lived in Seattle at that time (in houses not more than ten steps apart). Cash was on tour in the Northwest, and had booked a day at Bad Animals studio to record a cut for Justice Records’ Twisted Willie compilation backed by members of Soundgarden, Nirvana and Alice in Chains. Grant attended, in order to write a brief account of the event for Rolling Stone.
Grant also attended Cash’s concert a couple days later in Portland and reviewed it in ND #1, and he reviewed the Twisted Willie album for ND #2. Certainly the Man in Black has appeared in our pages dozens of times since then, but potential opportunities to have him on our cover had fallen by the wayside on various occasions.
Not so this time. It seemed appropriate that ND contributing editor Bill Friskics-Warren conducted his interview with Cash at the Carter Fold, which we’d featured as “A Place To Be” in ND #13, and that Johnny was at the family homestead to record with his wife June Carter Cash, who Friskics-Warren had profiled at length in ND #22.
Upon returning from the interview, Friskics-Warren passed along perhaps the most gratifying words we’ve ever received about our efforts, when he mentioned that Cash had asked: “I wonder if they’ll get me a subscription to that magazine. That’s my favorite magazine in the music business.”
Consider it done, Mr. Cash. And thanks.
Cash turned 70 earlier this year, as did my mother on October 2. We’d planned to go to Spain this fall to mark the occasion, sort of an outgrowth of my having taken Dad on a Rio Grande trip with Butch Hancock to mark his 70th a couple years ago. Mom took another trip instead, over a childproof gate at my brother’s house, and wound up with a broken shoulder, so we’ll make that sojourn in the spring instead.
There’s not a lot in our pages that Mom & Dad have ever really been able to relate to, but this issue seems somewhat of an exception. A few years ago they took me to a special concert for faculty of the University of Texas (where my dad has taught mechanical engineering for more than 30 years) which turned out to be a history of western swing music presented by fiddler Johnny Gimble. It’s a personal pleasure, then, to have a historical profile of Gimble in this issue — written by Bill Malone, another UT alum who came pretty close to overlapping with my dad’s undergrad days there.
Mom & Dad also have shown an appreciation for the music of Mickey Newbury, which I first played for them when I was putting together the Newbury tribute Frisco Mabel Joy Revisited a couple years ago. That connection was just one more reason Newbury’s music has meant so much to me, and I thought of my parents as I wrote this issue’s Farther Along piece on Newbury.
In the process of writing about Mickey, I corresponded with someone who had sent a fan letter to Newbury in 1972; Newbury had written back to say thanks, and this fan faxed me a copy of Newbury’s letter, which he’d kept all these years. Mickey mentioned in the note that he’d also shown the fan letter to “my friend John Cash.” Which brings us right back to where we began.
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A couple housekeeping items to sweep up before we shuffle out the door. By now you’ve probably noticed that we’re on a slightly different grade of paper than we used to be; this is partly a result of switching printers (we’re now at Banta in Greenfield, Ohio), and partly to accommodate advertisers who wish to use more color in their ads. Also, subscribers will notice that the change in printers also necessitated a change in mailing procedures, with the magazine now arriving in a polybag instead of an envelope.
Finally, congratulations to Diana Turner of Seattle, who won the guitar signed by Jay Farrar in our drawing presented by the No Depression Alt-Country Radio Show (which airs in Seattle on KYCW-AM 1090). Check our website, www.nodepression.net, to find out other stations across the nation carrying the show.