Daniel Amick shows off the vintage Martin guitar once played by Johnny Cash. (Photo by Dan Whittle)
History came alive through the fingers of grandson/instrumentalist Daniel Amick as he tuned the strings on a vintage Martin guitar.
But, this was not just any old Martin.
“Wow, I can’t believe I’m playing the guitar used by Johnny Cash when he recorded ‘I Walk The Line,’” Daniel noted as he fingered the chords to the 1950’s hit that Cash wrote and recorded on the old Memphis-based Sun Records label.
“This old Martin has still got a great, robust sound,” added Daniel, 17, who says he is “praying” about a possible career in professional music.
The incident happened as Daniel, Grandma Pat and I were making a house call on an ailing friend in the Nashville country music scene.
Daniel was striking some hot licks on his mandolin for benefit of our home-bound ailing friend.
“Son, I know good mandolin playing, and you’re a natural,” our ailing friend complimented the young Daniel.
That’s when the family graciously brought out Cash’s historic guitar to let Daniel get a feel for it.
“I love playing music anytime, but especially when I go to nursing homes and visit the sick,” young Daniel proclaimed as he jarred down on his rendition of ‘I Walk The Line,’ a song penned and recorded by the legendary Cash on April 2, 1956.
“Can you imagine the history, the places this guitar has appeared, and with the legendary music makers it accompanied?” Daniel continued. “It’s a simple song … with Johnny Cash’s trademark ‘freight train – boom-chicka-boom rhythm,’ to it."
“I Walk The Line” was Cash’s first No. 1 Billboard magazine hit, staying on the charts more than 40 weeks and selling more than 2,000,000 copies.
Upon getting back on the road to our home in Smyrna, young Daniel quickly put his unique guitar adventure on Facebook for all his young friends to share.
This was on a recent Monday that ended what Daniel described as a “historic magical weekend of music” that began at the gigantic Society For The Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) convention held in Nashville.
“I got to play in our band named ‘High Fidelity,’ headed by one of Nashville’s strongest instrumentalists, Jeremy Stephens, who plays professionally with the famous Chuck Wagon Gang all over the world,” Daniel explained. “I’m very thankful for that opportunity. “We played in SPBGMA competition at the Music City Sheraton. With Jeremy headlining our group, we won first place in the hotly-contested competition.”
With Daniel playing his Gibson mandolin, the group was rounded out with Stephens playing guitar and singing lead, along with Corrina Logston on the fiddle and singing harmony, Vickie Vaughn on bass and West Tennessee’s legendary banjoist Kurt Stephenson singing harmony.
“It’s a very stiff competition, with some of the best musicians in the world coming to strut their stuff,” noted Stephens. “We practiced with jam sessions until the wee hours of the mornings before playing two competitive sets Saturday, and then, having the finale set on Sunday.”
How important is the SPBGMA competition in the Bluegrass industry?
“Some of the biggest names, such as Alison Krauss, got their big break by winning this competition,” Stephens acknowledged. “It can be an important springboard to careers.”
Recognized as one of the consummate professionals on the Nashville music scene, Stephens was asked for a sincere appraisal of Grandson Daniel’s talent.
“Daniel, who can play any style, let us know quick that he can strike the old G-chord style that goes way back in Bluegrass,” Stephens assessed. “He’s a good, sweet kid – sensitive to quick learning and adapting to the style and licks that we needed for the SPBGMA competition. He can play professionally, if that’s his goal.”
“Kurt knew Daniel from when they competed in the Smithville Jamboree, and I knew of Daniel from Smithville where he and Kurt won several competitions,” Stephens added.
Let the music play on.