New Fife festival cashes in on the Man in Black

American singers Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace  in October 1981. Picture: Denis Straughan/TSPL
American singers Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace in October 1981. Picture: Denis Straughan/TSPL
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The little-known Scottish ancestral roots of Johnny Cash, which can be traced back to a 12th century king, are to inspire a new festival in Fife.

The “Man in Black” singer’s music, influence and family links with the area are to be honoured in a three-day event in 2020.

Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter Dean Owens dreamt up plans for the new event after reading about Cash’s connections with the Strathmiglo area, which he discovered after a chance meeting with the keeper of Falkland Palace on a transatlantic flight.

The new spring festival will include several of Fife’s best-known singer-songwriters, including Rab Noakes and Kirsten Adamson, and author Ian Rankin. The Cash Back in Fife line-up will also include Glasgow Americana star Martha Healy and Liverpudlian Hannah Rose Platt.

Major Michael Crichton-Stuart informed Cash how prevalent his surname was in Fife and that it could be traced back to the time of Malcolm IV, King of Scots in the mid-12th century.

Palace records show that a William Cash sailed from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts, with a boatload of pilgrims, in 1612. The family’s importance is still evident in and around Falkland with the place names Easter Cash, Cash Feus, Wester Cash and Cash Mills farm.

Cash and his family became regular visitors to Fife and the singer even recorded a TV special in Falkland with Andy Williams in 1981.

During his visit, Cash said: “I’m so proud and happy that my family background is associated with such a fine place.”

Owens, a long-time fan of Cash, released an album of songs written, covered or inspired by The Man in Black in 2012.

He approached the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour with the idea for the festival after playing a gig there earlier this year and secured an agreement from owner John McTaggart to go ahead with it from 6 to 8 March.

Owens said: “After playing a show at the Woodside Hotel in Aberdour earlier this year I went for a wander round the village and fell in love with the place.

“I remembered reading an article about Johnny Cash and his family connections to Fife. Being a massive fan of Johnny, I thought it would be great to celebrate his legacy in Fife by putting on a small festival there.

“I reached out to some amazing artists I know, including Rab Noakes and Ian Rankin – both of whom have strong connections with Fife– and they loved the idea.”

Rankin will be discussing how Cash influenced the music of the late Fife singer-songwriter Jackie Leven, who collaborated with the author on a stage show and album.

The crime writer, who was born in Cardenden, in Fife, said: “I remember as a kid being stunned when I saw photos of Johnny Cash in our local newspaper – he was on a visit to Falkland and seemed to have been beamed down from another planet.

“As a long-time fan of his music – my big sister played Live At San Quentin on heavy rotation – it’s a distinct honour to be asked to participate in a festival celebrating the man and his music.”

Noakes said: “Having been aware of Johnny Cash from rock’n’roll onwards, I became acutely informed of his expansive range and output in the second half of the 1960s. As an east Fife native (who lived in Strathmiglo for a while) I’m looking forward to Cash Back in Fife, and referencing these connections through song choices and anecdotes.”

Adamson, the daughter of the late Big Country singer Stuart Adamson, said: “Coming from a strong musical heritage in Fife, I grew up listening to, and being inspired by, country music, especially Johnny Cash and June Carter’s material. When I started writing my own material at 15 years old in my bedroom it was a country twang that emerged and it has never left me.”

McTaggart said: “We are very excited about hosting this festival, which ticks so many boxes for us, combining great music with Fife’s unique links with one of the world’s greatest musicians.”