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The Hard-Working Oxleys Carry on The Legend of Cash

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Brian and Sally Oxley are not your usual Johnny Cash fans. Both grew up as Westerners in the Far East as the children of Christian missionaries. Thus, they had little exposure to American culture. Yet, they found a unique calling when they moved back to the United States and settled in Nashville, Tennessee. The pair discovered the redemptive legend and music of the Man in Black. Whereas most followers might pick up a few albums to celebrate their fandom they chose to purchase famed Cash related properties and treasures throughout Middle Tennessee.

The Hard-Working Oxleys Carry on The Legend of Cash
Opryland's "stage coach" is rolled out again in Hendersonville.

One of those places is the Mama Cash house in Hendersonville, TN. Recently the couple held an open house for live music where young musicians were encouraged to play their original material in the same venue that Johnny Cash worked on his last album. Along with up-and-coming artists there was a celebrity in the house - Tim Watson. The well-respected fiddler presented an animated set of anecdotes and music that included fan favorites such as "Rocky Top" and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". In 1985, Tim was a featured performer at the former Opryland Show Park, then in 1987, Tim went to work for the "First Lady of Country Music" - Tammy Wynette. Tim has also opened or played with many greats such as Keith Urban, Lone Star, Randy Travis and most recently Watson has been working with his neighbor - Kid Rock.

After the music the Oxleys unveiled a unique piece of Nashville history - The Stage Coach from the Opryland Show. Tim recalled how it was rolled out and opened up into a secondary stage. Watson along with that day's performers stood on the surprisingly sturdy old stage to sing the classic "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in honor of Cash, country music and Opryland - now a mall.

On Sunday, September 01, 2019 from 2-6 pm the Oxleys are hosting a Mama Cash House Songwriters Fellowship. This will be a time for folks to present original family friendly music. There will also be a screening of a Dallas Frazier film at 7 pm for those who can stay. This compelling and comprehensive documentary tells the tale of a cotton-picking kid who later in life would pen some of the most popular songs in country music. Frazier wrote albums worth of material for Connie Smith and others. He also composed Charlie Pride's first number one songs. Dallas' biggest hit is the earthy "Elvira". During an interview in the film with the Oak Ridge Boys - who got that tune - they joked that its the law that the Oaks must play "Elvira" and it always gets folks on their feet. The documentary not only tells Dallas' story but shines a light on the music business as well.

The Hard-Working Oxleys Carry on The Legend of Cash
The Fiddle Man Tim Watson leads the way at July gathering.

If you have an opportunity to chat with Brian and Sally you will soon realize that they are drawn to narratives of redemption. It was one of the reasons that they embraced the legacy of Cash and even Elvis who deep down was always a man of faith. As you watch the Dallas Frazier film a similar pattern emerges.

Interestingly, Brian who is a former businessman is taking a turn at song craft. The spirit of Johnny has inspired Oxley to co-write songs. Brian has complied an eleven track CD - Everything Must Be Sold that showcases different artists singing meaningful, melodic songs that are also insightful. One of our favorites is "Drown It Out" which packs a punch with its powerful prose warning that drinking is not the answer. The track has a compelling chug-a-chugga rhythm reminiscent of that signature sound found on early Cash records. Musician Thomas Gabriel sings three of the tunes on the compilation and dare we declare that Gabriel is the second coming of Cash - after all he is Johnny's eldest grandchild with a deep voice. Like his famous forefather, Thomas has faced some demons but he is working on his redemption account through music.

In addition to welcoming folks to the Mama Cash house Brian and Sally maintain another important part of the Cash legacy. At the corner of Old Highway in Bon Aqua, TN the Oxleys run the Storytellers Museum. The former general store has a long history, most notable in the 1970's it was converted by Johnny Cash to be the spot where the "Saturday Night at Hickman County" guitar pulls took place on the "Little Stage". Later Johnny sold it to Red Wortham who turned it into a recording studio. In 2016, the structure was on the verge of collapse when Brian and Sally Oxley acquired the building. Within months the couple along with supporters had resurrected it to look like an old time general store on the outside. Inside it is the Storytellers Museum with an interesting collection of Bibles and Cash memorabilia. The Museum also frequently hosts concerts. A short drive from the general store is the Farm at Bon Aqua.

"The center of my universe" is what Cash called the Farm at Bon Aqua. This was the home where Johnny kicked off his boots to walk barefoot in the fields. A place to contemplate, read and write songs if inspired. The house was built before the Civil War by the prominent Weems family. The Farm reflects the history of its famous and wealthy owners. Some of the furniture in the house was Johnny's. Guests can sit in Cash's chair or look out windows at the views that brought peace to the Man in Black. Both properties in Hickman County are open to the public.

The Hard-Working Oxleys Carry on The Legend of Cash
Brian Oxley stays busy writing, recording and doing whatever comes to mind in Nashville and beyond.

Related Links: For more information on THE OXLEYS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Storytellers Farm | Oxvision Media | Tim Watson | Songwriter Brian Oxley | Bon Aqua Festival | Bon Aqua Bluegrass Festival | From Cash to King | Stan Perkins | Bon Aqua on the Rise | Brian and Sally Oxley


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