Ira Dean (L) and Johnny Cash (R) in 2000. Photo by Chuck Howard

Ira Dean Remembers Legend With: Johnny Cash: Forever Words

Ira Dean of Trick Pony fame remembers his friend and mentor, the legendary Johnny Cash, on the newly released tribute album, Johnny Cash: Forever Words (Expanded Edition), on which he recorded “Let It Be Tonight.” The new project is available now via Legacy Recordings.

Johnny Cash: Forever Words (Expanded Edition) includes the original album released in 2018, along with 18 new tracks. The record was compiled by Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, who recently discovered lost lyrics, poems and letters that his father had written. With words by the late Cash, numerous contemporary artists put the words to music, including Dean, Jewel, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, John Mellencamp, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, and more.

Dean first met the Cash’s when he struck up a friendship with John Carter while they were both working at a venue in Nashville. Dean was confiding in John Carter about how he was planning to move back home. He only had a few dollars to his name, when the Cash’s — Johnny, June and John Carter — said he could stay with them. From that one act of kindness, Dean began touring in John Carter’s band, playing the drums and bass, and opening up for the one-and-only Johnny Cash. Dean remembers June saying Dean was the “house pet that they fed and never left.”

While staying with the Cash’s, Dean also honed his songwriting skills. “When writing songs, son, you stick with the truth,” Dean remembers of the advice Cash gave him. Dean has since gone on to write chart-topping hits for artists such as: Trace Adkins, Gary Allan, Rascal Flatts, Uncle Kracker, Montgomery Gentry, Aaron Lewis, Joe Nichols, Jake Owen and Chris Young.

Before his death, Cash promised Dean that if he ever got signed to a major label he would sing on one of his records. In 2000, Dean was signed to Warner Bros. Records as a part of the country music band Trick Pony, and Cash made good on his 10-year-old promise and joined the band in studio to record their track “Big River.”

Dean vows all of his success in country music is because of the Cash family. Without them, he would have moved back to North Carolina to be a maintenance man.

Dean co-produced his track “Let It Be Tonight” alongside John Carter, with Alison Krauss on background vocals. The duo also produced John Popper’s track “Who’s Gonna Grease My Skillet” and Aaron Lewis’ track “The Third Degree.”

About Jerry Holthouse

Music editor for Jerry Holthouse is a content writer, songwriter and a graphic designer. He owns and runs Holthouse Creative, a full service creative agency. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of everything music. You can contact him at

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