Everybody loves at least one Johnny Cash song. Even people who say “I hate country music!” will follow that up with “Except for Johnny Cash.” Today’s T-shirt of the Week is a Johnny Cash shirt that my brother Regan gave me one year for Chirstmas.
All though I didn’t become a real fan of Johnny until I jumped on the “Hurt” bandwagon with the success of the other American Recording albums, I did see Johnny Cash live when I was in high school. It was at the Toronto Exhibition. My family went to the the Ex every year. We would go shopping, eat at the international food pavilion, and watch lots of free shows (back in the 90’s there were more free big name shows happening as part of the Ex).
One year when I was looking at the list of concerts happening, Johnny Cash was on that evening. My brother and I begged my parents to let us stay late enough to see the show. My dad couldn’t believe that his two long haired, Grunge loving sons wanted to see a country concert. Really, all we knew about Johnny Cash was that he has famous and that he sounded really cool on that U2 song (Wanderer) at the end of Zooropa. My Mom chimed in that she liked Johnny Cash, and my dad relented with something to the effect of “Well I use to watch the Johnny Cash TV show, so OK.”
The show was amazing, there was so many people there. We were well in the back but had a die hard fan beside us telling us all kinds of important facts about every song sang, and every statement uttered by Mr. Cash. We were also treated to an interlude by the Carter Family. At the time that was the only part of the show I didn’t like, but later I appreciated it in retrospect after taking a “History of Popular Music” class in University. That is when I learned how influential a guitar player Mother Maybelle Carter was, and I came to appreciate the wider old time folk tradition of country music.
A couple other things I remember about that show, was that Johnny Cash told the story of why he was The Man in Black, and that he would wear black until God fixed all the injustice in the world. He also introduced a Pastor that traveled around with the band. Johnny let the audience know that if anyone was having a hard time and needed someone to talk to, that the Pastor was available for a chat.
The biggest musical influence that concert had on me was Johnny telling a story of when he started out white bands weren’t allowed to bring snare drums into the studio (producers thought it was too bluesy), so to get the sound Johnny wanted he put a piece of paper under his strings, and then he strummed out the snare part on “Walk the Line.”
After hearing that story and falling in love with that song, I started strapping on all kinds of cardboard and paper on my guitar trying to come up with new sounds.
Actually the distortion you hear in the chorus of my song “Can You Dig It” was a folded piece of cardboard from a cereal box placed under the bridge of a classical guitar. Thanks Mr. Cash for giving me the idea.
- Listen to “Can You Dig It?” by 2x the Mono. Released in 2007 on the “Stereo EP” –
Can You Dig It?