MAN IN BLACK

TEX PERKINS TRIES ON JOHNNY CASH'S SHOES

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - KRISTY SY­MONDS

Had any other per­former stepped into Johnny Cash’s shoes for The Man

In Black, Tex Perkins would have been front row and cen­tre, heck­ling them.

The Aus­tralian singer­song­writer makes no bones about the fact he be­lieves he’s the right man for the job and the show’s pro­duc­ers were just “smart enough and lucky enough” to ap­proach him.

“I don’t think they re­alised that I had a bit of a his­tory with Johnny Cash: I was a longterm fan,” says Perkins.

“The whole vibe of Johnny Cash has in­formed a lot of my aes­thetic and my ap­proach to mu­sic.”

Perkins, a rock icon known for fronting sev­eral popular bands in­clud­ing The Dark Horses, The Cruel Sea and the Beasts of Bour­bon, first heard the mu­sic of Johnny Cash in 1970, when he was just six years old and the hit A Boy

Named Sue was play­ing on the ra­dio.

“Be­ing a sto­ry­telling song, it en­gages a child more than the usual pop ‘yeah she loves me’ lyrics,” he says.

“I didn’t know much about the dirty, dark side of life and the song has hu­mor­ous con­cepts, but it dealt with the mud, the blood and the beer, and that side of life. It opened up my mind to the dirty side of life.”

It was the char­ac­ters and con­cepts in Cash’s songs, such as the boy named Sue who sought re­venge on his fa­ther for giv­ing him a fem­i­nine name that had him ridiculed his en­tire life, that ap­pealed to Perkins right into his teens.

In high school, he was play­ing in punk rock­a­billy bands em­a­nat­ing Cash. “Very badly, I might add, but we were 16,” says Perkins.

“Cash’s mu­sic was very handy to us be­cause it was so sim­ple and the lyrics had cool things in it like peo­ple shoot­ing each other.

“And ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ (from Fol­som Prison Blues), lines like that im­pressed me.”

Cash’s mu­sic re­mained im­por­tant to Perkins through­out his ca­reer and he says he was “very much on board his come­back years, the last 10 years of his ca­reer and his life”.

In 2009, Perkins first dived into The Man in Black: The Johnny Cash Story, a two-hour show fea­tur­ing Cash’s mu­sic in­ter­wo­ven with the story of his rise to fame, fight for sur­vival and re­la­tion­ships. The mu­sic came almost too eas­ily for Perkins.

“Johnny Cash’s songs are like a comfy couch to me; I can re­lax into them and just en­joy my­self,” he says. “It’s almost too easy and if they had got­ten somebody else to do it, I prob­a­bly would have been up the front slag­ging them off and

CASH’S MU­SIC WAS ... SO SIM­PLE AND THE LYRICS HAD COOL THINGS IN IT LIKE PEO­PLE SHOOT­ING EACH OTHER

heck­ling.” Hav­ing al­ways been drawn to the nitty-gritty side of the Ring of Fire singer, Perkins says he made sure there was “plenty of fun and mur­der” in the per­for­mance.

“If somebody else put this show to­gether then they prob­a­bly would have leant a dif­fer­ent way,” he says.

“The show is about the du­al­ity of his per­son­al­ity and how, on one hand, he was very re­li­gious and very con­ser­va­tive and a fam­ily man and, on the other hand, he was a sort of drug-ad­dicted out­law coun­try singer get­ting into all sorts of strife.

“Some of his mu­sic mir­rors that: he sings songs of love and de­vo­tion and gospel, but also he sings songs about his own drug ad­dic­tion and almost plays with it.”

Perkins says the gig, which ar­rives on the Gold Coast for three shows this week­end, is “the sort of show a rock and roller can take his grand­mother to and both will en­joy it”.

“The au­di­ence for Johnny Cash and for this show is re­ally broad and it would be dif­fi­cult to find another show where there are grand­moth­ers there and I’m singing a song called Co­caine Blues.” The Man in Black, Jupiters Ho­tel & Casino, to­mor­row at 7.30pm and Satur­day at 2pm and 7.30pm.

Pic­ture: SI­MON BULLARD

Tex Perkins gets into his best black garb to pro­mote his The Man In Black show at Jupiters Ho­tel and Casino.

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