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A Tale of Two Countries
While Johnny Cash held what Nick Tosches called the “imprimatur of ageless cool” among the young punks, his repertoire, like that of Hank Williams, provided staples for the country ‘n’ Irish and showband canon, from the slickest old pros down to the most inept of part-time bar bands.
Peter Murphy, 02 Oct 2003
One could sit in the lounge of some country cattle shed and witness all manner of atrocities perpetrated upon music, but when even the most shambolic of combos kicked into ‘I Walk The Line’ or ‘Ring Of Fire’, for a few minutes you could forget about shooting the messengers and listen to the message. Cash’s songs were stitched into the secret pre-history of Irish rock ‘n’ roll, a glittering, guttering world of gold lame suits, shiny saxophones, mirror balls, brylcream, sweat and porter. Indeed, Cash himself wasn’t beyond the odd old chestnut like ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ – as recently as his last album, he was singing a fragile, mournful version of ‘Danny Boy’.
Im Aiken - Concert Promoter
“Johnny Cash came to Ireland when very few major acts would come here, and he would always play in Belfast without any hesitation. I think he first came here in the 1960s and toured the ballrooms. I know I did a show with him in the Carlton Cinema in 1976 and Mick Jagger was in the audience – he used to come here a lot to visit the Guinness family. He went backstage that night and met Johnny. Sometime in the 1980s he did the Kings Hall in Belfast, and I remember he played the Stadium in Dublin in 1981 with the Carter Family and the Tennessee Three.
“I never got into any deep conversation with him about anything. He could be slightly dour and very quiet. The only thing I talked to him about was ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ – he said he got the idea for the song while flying over the country. But he was a gentleman; he’d always say, ‘Thank you sir,’ and he always delivered onstage. The thing he did for country music was he kept it alive when it wasn’t fashionable and he made it acceptable to the rock audience.”
Brendan Bowyer - Showband Supremo
“I loved Johnny Cash, he was a totally unique talent and will be sadly missed. For me he was one of the original of the Sun Studios gang along with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips. They’re all gone now apart from Jerry Lee, which is strange – not what most people would have expected. I remember one of his early songs, ‘The Ballad of A Teenage Queen’, written by Jack Clement, making a big impression on me. That was way back in the mid-1950s before most people had heard of him.
“He played Las Vegas quite regularly over the years. I saw him there many years ago and again quite recently with The Highwaymen at the Mirage Hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t get to talk to him that night though I chatted with Waylon Jennings who is sadly gone too.”
Ray Lynam - Country singer
“We met briefly at a country festival in Wembley in the 1980s. He was a very big man in the flesh and he had a great presence. His songs were always good melodically and he had that unmistakeable voice. He toured England and Ireland at a time when no other country singer would come over here. I remember a time when the only country music you could buy in a record shop would by Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. I enjoyed his most recent stuff a lot.”