By Juliette Vera
Johnny Cash is no doubt a country music legend. His name, face, and baritone voice are forever imbedded in the minds of his fans. Cash sold more than 90 million albums in his 53 year music career. While there’s no other man like him, one group of musicians has brought his flare, style, and music back to the stage.
Douglas Benson, Kevin Manuel, Sean Glithero, Juli Crockett, and George Bernardo call themselves “Cash’d Out.” They’re a Johnny Cash Tribute band based in Southern California.
CMG: How much did you know about Johnny Cash before starting a tribute band? Were you always fans of his music?
Kevin: I’ve been a fan since I was a kid listening to my parent’s music.
Sean: I knew a lot about him just from listening to and studying music all my life. But, I’ve learned more about what a great and dynamic person he was.
CMG: Which song is your favorite to perform and why?
Doug: I like “Folsom,” “Southwind,” “Ring of Fire” because of the way the crowd gets into them. But I truly enjoy bringing the less popular ones to people who may not have heard them yet.
Kevin: Depends on the crowds…different crowds like different styles that Johnny Cash had to offer. Some like the old Sun era rockabilly stuff. Some like the newer, more countrified songs (well sorta newer, we only got to the late 60’s stuff so far – and a couple of 70’s tunes). My personal favorites are “Dark As A Dungeon” and “I Still Miss Someone.” They both just touch a nerve a guess. And “Wanted Man,” it’s always an adventure!
Sean: “Give My Love to Rose.” I always get chocked up when the dying man in the song says, “Tell my boy that Daddy is so proud of him.” I always think of my son and how much I love the little guy.
CMG: This question is along the same lines, but If you could perform one song live with Johnny Cash himself which would it be and why?
Doug: Anyone of them, but one wouldn’t be enough.
Kevin: “Pickin’ Time” – I’ve heard that that was one of Cash’s favorite songs so it would be great to play that one and see how much he put into it.
Sean: I would love to do some of the duets with Johnny and June. It would be great to experience their banter on stage. Jackson or Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man.
CMG: Put words in Johnny Cash’s mouth. If he could see you now, what would he say? What would his reaction be?
Doug: Bill Miller told me Johnny would be very excited and happy that we were doing his songs.
Kevin: I would like to think he would like it. We’ve played for a few family members and people that were in his inner circle, Lou Robbin (Cash’s manager), Bill Miller (johnnycash.com), Margie Perkins (Luther’s widow), John Carter Cash and Cindy Cash. I think Laura Cash was at an event we played for Johnnycash.com at the Fender Center in Corona. They’ve all really liked what we are doing and tell us Johnny would be proud. I’ll take their word for it!
Sean: “Y’all steal songs just as good as I did!” I think he’d be happy with the fact that we play the songs true to the old school country and boogie woogie sound.
CMG: What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your performance?
Doug: When Johnny’s daughter Cindy Cash came back stage and gave me a necklace with a locket that holds some of Johnny’s hair.
Kevin: We’ve had lifelong Johnny Cash fans come to the show and tell us that even though they came skeptical about the band, they could close their eyes and they thought they were listening to the real deal.
Sean: One of Johnny’s best friends, Bill Miller, once introduced us at an event and said, “Some people are impressionists… these guys leave an impression!”
CMG: What’s the most critical comment you’ve received about your performance?
Kevin: Every once in a while we’ll get someone that says we’re just doing this to make a buck on Johnny’s name. If they knew the pay cut I took to do this I think they’d retract their statements.
Sean: I’ve read in blogs where people say that what we do is easy. Sure, playing other people’s music is easier than writing/selling original music. But, I’m proud of how we recreate the Johnny and June shows from the Sun years. It’s not easy to get that old sound and keep people interested for 2 plus hours.
CMG: Pick one characteristic you believe you have in common with Cash.
Doug: The joy we get from performing for people.
Kevin: Everyone that has ever met Johnny has commented on his charisma. I think the band as a unit is very charismatic. There is an energy and a dynamic to the band that transforms our shows from just another show at another joint in the next town to something that people can feel and remember.
CMG: For people that love to bad mouth country music in any form what would you tell them to try and change their minds or perspective?
Doug: Listen to the true country music, the originals like Hank Williams, the Carter’s, Willie, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash etc.
Kevin: I think most folks that say they’ll listen to anything but country just haven’t heard Real Country music. I’m talking about stuff like Ray Price, Bob Wills, Buck Owens. The list goes on and on from the Bakersfield Sound to Western Swing to some good old Texas Honkytonk music. I’m no fan of modern “country” music, but to close your mind to an entire genre of music (or anything for that matter) is depriving yourself of all kinds of things you just might like.