"I’m never going to share that letter, but it’s the reason that performance aired," said the 55th annual ACM Awards executive producer RAC Clark.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
September 30, 2020
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Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Earlier this month on September 16, the 55th annual Academy of Country Music Awards took place on stages across Nashville. Amid the coronavirus pandemic with no live audience, they were certainly unlike any others in the show's history. One of the most standout numbers of the night? Eric Church's emotive performance of "Stick That In Your Country Song," the lead single for Church's upcoming studio album, featuring a special intro recording of Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag."

You wouldn't know from watching Church's soul-stirring yet seemingly effortless performance, but the road to pull it all off wasn't easy. In a recent issue of industry newsletter Country Aircheck Weekly, the 55th ACM Awards' executive producer RAC Clark shared a bit more about how this unforgettable performance made it to the airwaves.

"Eric Church sent me a work tape in July—strumming and reciting [Johnny Cash's 1974] 'Ragged Old Flag' into 'Stick That In Your Country Song.' As we got into it, we found the Cash estate and publishers are very protective," Clark recalled to the outlet. "No matter how much talking I did trying to get it cleared, it was a corporate wall. I called Eric’s manager John Peets and said, 'I need Eric to write a letter to John and Rosanne Cash explaining what he wants to do.' I’m never going to share that letter, but it’s the reason that performance aired. His passion about what he wanted to say and why allowed them to entrust him with their father’s legacy."

Ultimately, as Clark elaborated, showrunners were able to polish up a narration Cash did of "Ragged Old Flag" on a special of Ralph Emery's, the famed country music disc jockey. With that track, Church was able to play his guitar to in the background for his live act. The ACM team also worked with Cash's estate for permission to run images of him to accompany Church's performance and BMG for song publishing rights. "There was a lot of sweat equity by a lot of people. Part of my job is to bring these things to life, but this was Eric’s vision. He pushed it over the top, and boy, did he deliver," said Clark. Watch the full performance with Eric Church, his band, and backup singer Joanna Cotten below.

WATCH: This Love Letter from Johnny Cash to June Carter Will Melt Your Heart

In our humble opinion, the powerful performance would have made Mr. Cash himself very proud. Nicely done, Chief. | Photo: