Johnny Cash Remembered
By Uncle Bill - Bill0666@aol.com - Posted Sept. 12, 2003
Back in 1959 or 60, I get confused these days; I was stationed in West
Germany in the Air Force at a small base near Wurtzburg. I had managed to put
together a band called the "Klicks," made up of two Air Force and two Army
guys. We were the only all Rock & Roll G.I. bands around and played most of
the enlisted/NCO clubs within reasonable driving distance. Most other G.I.
bands were country with a little R&R thrown in.
We had played at the Sweinfurt NCO club several times. It was a plush club
that had a stage that rolled out from a wall when they had USO shows or name
acts came in.
We had played the night the DeCastro sisters were there. You might remember
that they had a hit called "Teach Me Tonight." We did two sets, cleared the
stage and they did their show. We set up again and closed the club. It went
so well that we were booked to play the night Johnny Cash was to be there.
I was really excited. I had collected all of Cash's SUN releases before I
shipped out and loved the plain but haunting guitar riffs of Luther Perkins.
The night of Cash's appearance, the club was jammed. They were turning away
people at the door. Officers were even trying to muscle their way in. We did
our two sets real well and cleared the stage. We had grabbed a table near the
right side of the stage so we could see real well.
Cash came in the front door. Wearing all black, he went quickly to the
dressing rooms behind the stage without looking at or acknowledging a soul.
His band made up of an upright bass player, a drummer with only a snare drum
and a hi-hat, and Luthur Perkins who was playing the first Fender Jazzmaster I had
ever seen. It was white with a tortoise shell pick guard. He also had a new
brown Fender "Pro" Amp with a Lansing D-130 speaker. This was not the stock
speaker for that amp. The Lansing speaker could be recognized by it's silver
or metallic speaker cone that could be seen through the grill cloth. It was a
powerful speaker that had a clear crisp, almost snapping sound for guitars.
Cash was introduced, went directly to the stage and began the set. It was
astonishing how tight they were. Cash had a D-sized Martin and when they went
to a guitar break, he would hold it up to the house mic and play rhythm. What
a sound. And all the time Perkins never missed a lick.
In his act there was a lot of comedy. While Cash would play and act like he
was enjoying the music, he would look over at Luther, who was absolutely
deadpan. Cash would roll his eyes and try to make Luther Smile. Luther would
just stare at him. The crowd would crack up.
One time Cash pulled out a big hair comb and said "I got an estimate on a
hair cut the other day." A line I used several times later on. Then he
dropped the comb. The bass player pulled out a blank pistol and shot the
comb. Cash and Perkins jumped off the stage and the drummer fell off his
stole. They were all starring at the comb. A great skit.
After Cash had left the stage, we were waiting from them to clear so we could
set up again. I introduced myself to Luther and told him how much I admired
him. I grilled him on his equipment, he let me play the Jazzmaster. It was
all new. He had the Lansing speaker put in the Amp at the Fender factory. He
liked the snap that it had when he muffled the strings.
He was great, talked like we were old friends. He and the bass player stayed
around for our first two songs, gave me a wave and left. I never forgot him.
Johnny Cash left quickly after his set without saying a word to anyone as
near as I could tell. I think it was the beginning of his dope days ...
It was a night I'll never forget.
-Uncle Bill; Walkin the Line: in NY
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