A Tribute to Johnny Cash

Rick McKay

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An eerily authentic tribute to Johnny Cash by a genuine life-long fan of the "Man In Black".

When I was 6 years old my family moved from Stamshaw, in my home town of Portsmouth, to an area called Somers Town. With that knowledge as a benchmark, I can say with confidence and pride that I have been a Johnny Cash fan for more than 40 of my (almost) 48 years. I was actually around 4 years old the first time I heard the words “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”, the distinctive guitar sound of Luther Perkins on the intro to “Folsom Prison Blues” and an audience of convicted felons (though I didn’t know what a “felon” was at the time) going wild for the “Man in Black”. I remember thinking Johnny Cash looked like John Wayne, and for a number of reasons, I have always seen the two as similar characters. Standing up for the “underdog” and taking on the bad guys without a hint of fear, even when massively outnumbered. I remember a song called “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean that featured the lyric “A crashing blow from a huge right hand sent a Louisiana fella to the promised land”. I remember that someone told me (incorrectly) that the song was based a true story about Johnny Cash, and that as a result of that incident he had spent time in jail, all of which helped to build the “mythology” surrounding him in my mind. I remember many years later how the hair literally stood up on the back of my neck when I heard that same “Folsom” guitar intro, this time played my Marty Stuart, and heard the words, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” once again, only this time I was THERE, in the second row with my Mother and my Uncle, who between them had introduced me to this man and his music, and for whom I now tried to return the favour in a small way by buying them tickets for the show. As Johnny Cash seemed to burst through the side doors of the open stage in Portsmouth’s 2000 seat Guildhall and cross that large space in what seemed like three strides, I remember feeling like he filled up the room all by himself. I’ve been lucky enough to see most of my “idols”, “heroes” (whatever you choose to call them), live in concert, but I’ve never felt that much “charisma” from any other performer. What I do not need to remember is, how I felt on both those “big first” occasions, because I still feel the exact same sense of awe and strength and humour and honesty every time I put on a Johnny Cash album today. This album and my live performances in this “role” are tributes to Johnny Cash. It is a privilege to be able to do this and an honour I do not take lightly.

Rick McKay June 10th 2013

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