MAN IN BLACK
TEX PERKINS TRIES ON JOHNNY CASH'S SHOES
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.
Tex Perkins gets into his best black garb to promote his The Man In Black show at Jupiters Hotel and Casino.