The ‘man in black’ is back

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The one thing Bill Dewey wants people to know is this: it’s not exploitation.

“There are a lot of performers out there who do these shows and call them ‘tributes’ but who are only in it for the money,” Dewey said in a telephone interview this week.

“That’s not me,” he said. “I knew Johnny. I met him. I went to his funeral and I went to June Carter Cash’s funeral, too.

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“I do this to honor him,” Dewey said.

“Bill Dewey’s Tribute to Johnny Cash” will be performed, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Paramount Theatre.

Sponsored by US 99.9 KAUS Country, the performance will showcase Dewey’s multi-talented act.

Close your eyes and he really sounds like the country music legend, Johnny Cash.

If hearing him in person isn’t enough, Dewey will have his “My Tribute to Johnny Cash” CD on sale at the Paramount Theatre Friday night.

Buy one, take it home and listen to “Folsom Prison Blues,” among the others, and make up your own mind.

Dewey is satisfied what he is doing is right.

“I think people will like it,” he said. “It’s a mix of his greatest hits and a couple of obscure gems I picked out.”

When Dewey was younger, he worked with Austin’s Denny Charnecki when they performed tribute shows of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Today, he focuses on doing Cash.

“As far as I am concerned, there are only two music legends and they are Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash,” he said. “Nobody else is at that level. Nobody else had a greater impact on modern music. That’s a fact.

“Johnny Cash is a part of my life,” Dewey said.

Cash died Sept. 12, 2004, just after Dewey finished his “Tribute” CD to the man.

“It’s something I wanted to present to him in person, but I didn’t make it,” he said.

There are some performers whom their fans wish could live forever.

Cash, the singer and songwriter, was such an entertainer.

His deep, distinctive voice brought every song he sung home to rest on the mind, in the heart, clutching the soul of his fans.

It’s not just the early Cash singing with first the Tennessee Two and then the Tennessee Three backing him, it’s not just obscure classics such as “That Old Wheel,” a duet with Hank Williams or the comedic “A Boy Named Sue” or “Jackson” with wife June Carter Cash or “Rock Island Line” and any of the other railroad songs he did, it’s, well, everything.

Absolutely everything.

“Cocaine Blues” ≠… any gospel song ≠… Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

He simply didn’t make a bad record.

Today, the man performing Friday night in Austin, June 27 at Club 57 at Waseca and June 28 at the Worth County Fair in Northwood, Iowa has chosen awfully big shoes to fill on the stage.

Dewey’s edge is he actually knew the man.

“What you saw on stage was the same off stage. He never put on any airs. He was always himself,” Dewey said of his in-person encounters with the music legend.

And, while singing his best, that’s the kind of performer Dewey tries to be.

“It’s funny, ya’know,” he drawled, sounding a lot like you-know-who, “The encores change every night. One night the audience might want ‘Walk the Line’ and the next night it’s ‘A Boy Named Sue,’” he said. “They know the songs and we play them. It’s as simple as that.

“I know I’m not Johnny Cash. I never pretend to be. I just sing his music. It’s just me on the stage,” he said. “I may have a voice like his, but he was the real deal.”

“Elvis and Johnny set the standard for all the other performers and no matter how hard they try, they’re not going to measure up,” Dewey said.

Tickets are $14 and will be available at the door Friday evening.

They are also available in advance at the Paramount Theatre box office (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday this week), Hy-Vee Food Store, B&J Bar and Grill and the Hardy Geranium, all in Austin.

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