Johnny Cash has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and although it’s been nearly ten years since his death, his music remains popular among fans of all ages. So much so, St. Louis-based singer/songwriter Bill Forness formed a tribute band and now tours the country performing Cash’s music.
“It’s a lot of fun. I can’t believe the response,” he says.
Forness, who has played music for years, says he didn’t start out with a tribute band in mind. The long-time fan initially included just a few Johnny Cash songs in his regular shows.
“Basically, people liked the way I did them and were asking if I’d do more,” he explains. “So, I decided to learn as much Johnny Cash as possible and I learned the entire Folsom Prison album from 1968. And on the anniversary of that date we performed the album in its entirety. Now it’s just developed into a show.”
The show is called “One More Round: A Tribute To Johnny Cash” and covers Cash’s life and music from the ‘50’s through the 90’s. It includes his signature songs like “Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and much more.
“There’s a little bit of storytelling about his life and the songs he wrote,” says Forness. “There’s a story that goes along with almost every song.”
Forness describes Cash’s music and style as “timeless,” and difficult to “put in a box.” The music spanned a range of genres: rockabilly, folk, country, and gospel, and contained, as Forness puts it, “ a raw truth.”
“There’s not a lot of fluff in his music. It’s simplistic. The songs are simplistic, the message is right there, a sort of take-it-or-leave-it type of thing.”
In his tribute show, Forness also takes time to highlight Cash’s work as a humanitarian.
“You know, all the things he did in his life that meant a great deal to many, many people from raising money on Indian Reservations when they were trying to develop uranium to performing in prisons and helping those folks there.”
Forness says in the three years he’s done the tribute show, he’s met Johnny Cash fans ranging in age from three to 90.
“I’ve had people break down and cry. It brought them right back to their grandfather working in the garage. All of the different stories like that really make you want to keep going. And as long as they feel good about the way I’m doing the man’s songs, then I’ll keep doing it.”
Forness truly does an amazing job of sounding an awful lot like Johnny Cash.
You can catch One More Round: A Tribute to Johnny Cash tonight (Friday) at Zazoo’s Bar & Grill in Louisville at 9pm and tomorrow night (Saturday) at Dillinger’s in New Albany, Indiana at 8pm.