Johnny Cash Day marks 10 years celebrating the Man in Black

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Elks Lodge #339

September 20 (sold out)
7 p.m.

Ready to go down, down, down into a burning ring of fire?

He’s forever known as The Man in Black, immortalized in iconic songs like “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” and in 1980, he became the Country Music Hall of Fame’s youngest living inductee. If you’re a fan of the late great Johnny Cash, then there is absolutely no other place you want to be on Saturday, September 20th, when Johnny Cash Day turns 10 years young.

The bourbon and the baritone ballads will flow at Elks Lodge #339, nestled within a row of stately Victorian row houses along Deutschtown’s Cedar Avenue. You may know the Lodge as home to the Pittsburgh Banjo Club, but for the past six years (and counting, we hope!), it has also been host to one of the Burgh’s most unique musical celebrations.

Marking the sad passing of the legendary country singer-songwriter—who departed for lands beyond on September 12, 2003— Johnny Cash Day celebrates the star’s lasting legacy with an appropriately spirited and heartfelt gathering. Putting their own spin on Cash’s legendary sound will be a host of local musical luminaries, including Chester, The Beagle Brothers, the May Day Marching Band and the Neighborhood.

Evolving from a cadre of close friends “drinking bourbon and listening to Johnny Cash music at our coffee shop in Brighton Heights” to a rowdy house show and now a consistently sold-out annual happening, the highly anticipated tribute also raises money for local charities.

Hundreds of fans of all ages and backgrounds can be seen ascending the steps into the renovated Elks Lodge—among them women sporting 1970s-era ruffled blouses and clasping JC mementos, students donning rose-embroidered western shirts and black jeans, musicians who have learned from the master, North Side neighbors and lifelong Cash devotees. After all, who doesn’t like to sing along to songs of courtship, marriage, adultery, murder, Judgment Day, whiskey, and of course, heartbreak?

Along with the amazing music and camaraderie is an underlying mission of caring and community that helps to define the event’s role at the Lodge. Bradly Richards, who co-founded Johnny Cash Day in a coffee shop 10 years ago soon after the country music legend passed away, runs the popular event with his wife Carrie and friends Shawn and Dana Melvin. Richards is passionate about connecting Cash’s music and legacy to the past, present and future of the Elks Lodge and its charitable work.

“It’s really what makes this important work, and why we moved it from a party at our house, and have kept it alive,” says Richards. “The charities are at the heart of this.”

Proceeds from Johnny Cash Day go to supporting critical work across the region, such as the PA Elks Home Service Program, youth outreach programs and scholarships, Veterans Home visits and donations and necessary repairs to the Lodge itself. Richards estimates that over the past seven years, Johnny Cash Day has raised $45,000 to support the Lodge’s work.

On a personal and social level, the event has helped to rejuvenate and bring new blood to the Lodge and its membership and activities. All four organizers of Johnny Cash Day are also members of Elks Lodge #339, and frequent its popular Banjo Club nights. Due both to its unique location at the Lodge, and its draw of fans via word-of-mouth and social media methods, the event has also been able to maintain an authentic feel.

Those lucky enough to score tickets—nearly 400 are expected to attend and the event sold out in one day—will also enjoy down-home food and drink specials, door prizes and raffles (read: items donated by Pabst Blue Ribbon and Maker’s Mark). While there, be sure to peruse the event’s impressive selection of merchandise, including t-shirts, utility towels and posters designed by Colin Miller of Deeplocal.

All proceeds from Johnny Cash Day 2014 will benefit the Charities of the Elks and the Elks Lodge Beautification Fund.