You walk a fine line when you’re playing Johnny Cash.
Ask Clive John, the only man capable of winning the approval of the late great entertainer’s family with his vocal – and physical – transformation on stage. Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s eldest daughter, has hailed it “uncanny”.
I’m not out to be Johnny Cash – but capture the essence of him
The Johnny Cash Roadshow has taken fans by storm worldwide since 2005 – and it’s still evolving. Clive calls it a celebration.
“I’ve been a songwriter for a long time and the word ‘tribute’ makes me shiver,” he admits. “I’m not out to be Johnny Cash – but capture the essence of him.”
Some 39-40 songs are covered in a night which includes narratives and visuals with full live band, brass section, other singers – including the charismatic Jill Schooljan (as June Carter) who’s on home turf for Sunday’s show at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool. “Her mother and father live there and will be coming to the show. Her grandad came from Belgium.”
It’s well walking the line to the box office judging by the rave reviews worldwide.
Cash’s story is played out with a passion which has thrilled fans; Clive himself has shared the stage with platinum selling artists such as Joe Satriani and Elvis Costello.
The Man in Black is seldom without a suitcase – and Clive’s current pride and joy is a van which enables the band to tour in greater comfort. It’s an arduous lifestyle, says the 40-year-old singer-songwriter.
“On days when I’m doing shows I’m physically unable to do much else. It’s an ageing business, life is endless miles, journeys, travelling, on a plane or in a van, here, or in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, beyond. It’s mental at the moment. I bought a new van to get the band about and in four weeks we’ve done 6,000 miles in the UK and across to Belgium.
“I come home, sort through the washing, black shirts for the first half, whites for the second, and then I’m back on the road.
“I’m doing what I love. I love his voice, his attitude. He’s got a realness about him, he was a very personable man. It came through in his music, he’s not country, he doesn’t fit any genre, he’s unique.
“His career spanned five decades and the later recordings won him new younger fans. I like the early ones and I love his prison shows – no one else could have carried them off. Whether he played a prison or a concert hall audiences knew that. He still has a lot of influence.”