Jun 15 2011 By Siba Matti
Clive John Johnny Cash
The Johnny Cash Roadshow rolls into the Beck Theatre tomorrow (16) for one night only. SIBA MATTI chatted to singer / songwriter Clive John, who plays the 'Man In Black', to find out more about his tribute to the late country music legend.
HUNDREDS of tribute acts have attempted to capture the unmistakable voice of country music heavyweight, Johnny Cash, since his death almost eight years ago.
But few can claim to be more convincing than Clive John, the brains behind The Johnny Cash Roadshow, which visits the Beck Theatre tomorrow (16) night.
The show, also featuring Jill Schoonjans, dubbed the best 'June Carter' in the business, will include Cash's most popular hits, from Ring of Fire to Walk The Line and A Boy Named Sue.
But far from being a life-long fan, Clive, a talented singer/songwriter in his own right, admits he discovered Cash's musical creations less than a decade ago.
"One year before a friend of mine died from a brain tumour, aged just 28 years old, he bought me a Johnny Cash record," he explains. "I had a listen and got really into it.
"That was eight years ago. I came up with the idea for The Johnny Cash Roadshow about six years ago, and have been perfecting it ever since."
Clive, 36, insists he will not impersonate Cash – instead, he will capture the essence of the great American artist.
"We play about 37 songs in total, focusing quite a lot on Johnny Cash's performances at San Quentin and Folsom Prison, at the pinnacle of his success," he reveals.
"The show isn't a pantomime – a lot of people already know his life story and come just to hear his music played live.
"We do tell the audience about when the records were released, how well they sold and a bit about Cash's relationship with June Carter, with video projections linking songs.
"However, we try to keep it as family orientated as possible so we don't really delve into his drug addictions or his death. It is more a celebration of his musical achievements.
"The show is polished and professional, leagues apart from other 'yee haw!' tribute bands."
As well emulating Cash's iconic sound, Clive and his co-stars will also wear outfits to add to the authenticity of the show.
"I dress in black, just like Cash, and my own hair is very short so I recently began wearing a wig, which I paid £1,000 for, much to my disgust!" he laughs.
Clive says Walk The Line, the 2005 film biopic about Cash's life, has boosted not only the music legend's ever-growing fan base, but also the roadshow's popularity.
"The film, together with modern covers of Cash's songs, including Hurt and Personal Jesus, have brought his music to a whole new audience," he says.
"As a result, we have a very diverse mix of ages at our shows – from children as young as five and teenagers to people who have followed Cash's career since the 1950s.
"His music has a universal appeal and will probably live on for decades after his death."
Clive, a married father-of-two, hopes to mirror Cash's success in his own career.
A professional musician since the tender age of 18, he has now released an impressive seven albums, including most recent, The Spirit, which earned a place on the Hot Disc country music charts.
Running Away Again, a single from the album, also topped the UK and Irish country music charts for eight weeks.
"Believe it or not, it hasn't made me a millionaire," says Clive, who hails from Malvern, Worcestershire.
"About 80 per cent of my time is spent with The Johnny Cash Roadshow.
"People know what to expect when they see the name Johnny Cash, but because I haven't been on television, they don't know who I am.
"In the future, I hope my time could be split more evenly, but for the time being, I am really happy to continue performing the music of one of America's great recording artists."
The Johnny Cash Roadshow comes to the Beck Theatre tomorrow (16) night at 7.30pm and tickets cost £17. For more information visit www.becktheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 8561 8371.