Some say that Bobby Bare doesn't get excited much – a reflection on his easy-going nature. However, the Country Music Hall of Fame member told Billboard that he is definitely looking forward to next month's Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The two-day event, slated for August 15-16, will include the Grand Opening of Cash's boyhood home – following a massive renovation campaign spearheaded by the Cash family and Arkansas State University, as well as a concert featuring Bare, along with fellow icons Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire.
"I'm very excited to be working with Reba and Loretta, but also because of John, who was a dear friend of mine," reflected Bare. "He lived right down the lake from me. He and June were godparents to my youngest daughter. John and I had been friends starting in 1957. He lived in California at the same time I did, so I used to go out to his house for a goat roast or something crazy like that. A bunch of us went out there, me, Patsy Cline, the Carter Family. We'd all have a guitar pull. Those things went on in those days. He was a hell of a man."
Bare said he also witnessed the "Man In Black" during his battle with drugs in the 1960s. "He had a good heart at all times, even in the rough periods. It was heartbreaking, but what are you going to do? You don't tell Johnny Cash not to do something. You just love him and be there for him."
Watching Cash conquer his inner demons was an inspiration for Bare, who also marveled at the varied list of guests who would show up at his house – such as The Rev. Billy Graham and "Walking Tall" sheriff Buford Pusser.
"John had a wide range of acquaintances, and his tolerance of different kinds of people was something I loved about him. You've got to take people like they are, and not judge them. He never judged anybody."
Bare's last album, "Darker Than Light," elicited many comparisons to Cash's latter-day American Recording sessions with Rick Rubin. Bare says he is planning to start work on a new project soon. "I know I've got to get back in the studio, which I am. But, I haven't landed on what exactly I'm going to do. I know it's not going to be routine – something I've already done. I sing the only way I know how, but I would want it to be a different theme. I would love to go back and do some old Hank Williams songs and things that were hits back in the 1950s, like Hank Thompson, Carl Smith, and Webb Pierce."
The singer has had plenty of time to reflect upon his induction to the Hall of Fame last year, and confessed to The 615 that he still doesn't believe it. "It's still a shock," he says. "I wasn't expecting it. I didn't work on it or even think about it a lot. I was really surprised. I didn't know it was that big of a deal until I told my wife and kids. They were all excited and emotional. One of my granddaughters asked me 'What is this Hall of Fame?' I said 'Well, it means one day when you're grown up, you can take your kids there, and point to the plaque and my likeness and say 'That's my papa, someone who loved me very much."
However, Bare's career certainly had an ominous beginning. The singer's first hit, 1958's "All American Boy," was erroneously credited to his friend, Bill Parsons. Bare shared the story for Billboard.
"I was drafted, and had to go into the Army the latter part of November of 1958. I was living in California, so I had to come back to Ohio to go in because that's where I registered. I had about a week before I had to report to Fort Knox for basic training. Bill had just gotten out of the Army. He had a thing he wanted to record. So, we went down to King Studio in Cincinnati, and I played bass on his thing. We had about fifteen minutes. I said 'Let me put down this thing I've been working on.' So, I did. That same day, they wanted to make a copy of it. The guy who was paying for it went to a company there to get an acetate made. It was Fraternity Records. When they heard the two records. They asked who was singing, and the guy told him Bill Parsons – which it was on the back side of that record. So, they put it out with his name on it. It scared him to death. He didn't even know the song."