The Times Dispatch, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas
Gretchen Hunt, Editor
Sonny Burgess and Stan Perkins cut the ribbon on Saturday afternoon to open the Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park.
Located next to the Iron Mountain Depot, along Highway 67 B, which has been designated as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway, the attraction pays homage to legends who played along the highway in the 1950s and ’60s.
Burgess, who is one of the musicians honored on the walk, also unveiled his plaque with assistance from his band, The Legendary Pacers.
Perkins and his wife, Connie, unveiled the plaque that honors his dad, Carl Perkins. Both were noticeably moved as they looked over the photos depicted and listened to the audio that had been recorded.
Other special guests on hand for the reveal were family members of the late Billy Lee Riley, who is also honored on the walk. His widow, Joyce Riley, along with her daughter and granddaughter, Angela Johns and Lauryn, unveiled his plaque.
H.T. Moore of Paragould, who did all the legal work for the project, and architect Jim Eubanks of Little Rock, were also a part of the grand opening. Both provided their services at no charge and have also made financial contributions to the project.
Pros Atty. Henry Boyce shared a few words prior to the ribbon cutting, including recognizing Mayor Don House, State Rep. James Ratliff, State Sen. Robert Thompson and Cong. Rick Crawford, who were in attendance.
Boyce, who was part of the original effort to have the highway designated as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway, gave high praise to former State Rep. J.R. Rogers of Walnut Ridge.
“Without J.R. none of this would have happened,” Boyce said. “He single-handedly wrote the legislation and got it through the House and the Senate to have the highway designated.”
Also taking part in the ribbon-cutting were Don and Fran Cavenaugh of Walnut Ridge, representing Cavenaugh Auto Group, KASU Station Manager Mike Doyle of Sedgwick and Lawrence County Tourism Committee members Charles and Jackie Snapp, Vickie Mitchell, Danny West, Dr. Brett Cooper and Sue Gibson.
Cooper said the Tourism Committee came up with a couple of really innovative ideas and then went to work to make them happen.
“With Beatles Park last year and Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park this year, the committee has done remarkable work,” he said.
He said one of the most rewarding parts of all of this has been seeing the community get behind the tourism efforts.
“Folks just seemed to catch the vision, and their support and generosity made it possible,” he said. “Their excitement has been contagious, and I sincerely hope it keeps building.”
The 115-foot-long Guitar Walk also honors Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Wanda Jackson.
At each station, visitors will find photos and memorabilia related to each artist, as well as have the opportunity to listen to an audio tour narrated by Doyle and featuring anecdotes from Burgess.
“We decided to ask Sonny to give us memories of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway for the audio tour,” Doyle said. “I recorded about three hours of interviews with Sonny, as he reminisced about Elvis, Orbison, Cash, Twitty (Harold Jenkins as he referred to him) – he knew them all.”
Doyle said the hardest part was selecting those “little gems” of audio to use as soundbites.
“It required a lot of audio editing and tightening up,” Doyle said. “Sometimes I had to write and record my own lead-in to one of his bites to give it context.”
Doyle said the technology used at the walk is cutting-edge.
“We have a classy exhibit that entertains while it educates – an outdoor museum that recognizes our musical heritage on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Highway,” he said.
Charles Snapp said several have visited the attraction in the days following Saturday’s festival.
“The Guitar Walk is a world-class attraction, designed to entertain and educate visitors,” Snapp said. “When you combine its appeal with Beatles Park, I think area residents will be shocked at what the future holds in the way of visitors to our area.”