Johnny Cash is currently one of the most hip artists for fellow performers to sight as an influence, being popular on both the mainstream and the youthful indie scene. It's not a new phenomena though, he has pretty much always been a leader in his field and therefore a role model to other singers. The 50's and 60's saw scores of singers adopting the JC style, no doubt thinking that if he could score with the simple boom-chicka-boom style, then why couldn't they. Well, it wasn't that simple. As we know, JC was dripping with charisma and wrote some of the greatest songs since Hank Williams. Some of the best were as simple as the sound, like Get Rhythm, others were different, they had lines that just didn't pop into a normal mans head, like Big River. "Cavorting in Davenport", that's not the type of thing Joe Bloggs dreams up as he's walking down Main Street. Anyway, here’s a handful of songs done ala Johnny.
1. Dane Stinit - That Muddy Ole River
Number one in the Johnny Cash soundalikes has to be Dane Stinit's tribute to JC and Memphis with Muddy Ole River. I know I’ve given him three entries here but I make no apology for that. This guy is the ducks nuts and this song should have been a big country hit. Recorded in November 1966 it is significant in that it was Sam Phillips' final Sun production. Like Big River it pays homage to the mighty Mississippi River that flows along the banks of Memphis, Tennessee.
2. Johnny Doe - Devil Train
I wonder how long it took to come up with the name. The name might suck but the song doesn't. Rich in Cashisms and strong of rhythm, this devil train might be headed for hell, but what a ride.
3. Johnny Seay - My Baby Walks All Over Me
Johnny Seay was one of the best and most successful of the JC disciples, scoring a couple of Hot 100 hits along the way. Waylon did a pretty good version of MBWAOM but Bob Luman absolutely nailed it and has the definitive version. Johnny Seay's runs it close and
4. Benny Joy - Dark Angel
Benny Joy recorded some of the best rockabilly ever without even a hint of Johnny Cash in his sound, but he's firmly in Johnny Cash country here with a plodding ode to his evil woman.
5. Chuck Wells - Down And Out
Johnny Cash tackles 60's trucking songs is what we get here. The backing vocalists even sound like Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. I don't know anything about Chuck Wells but I bet he was a big fan of JC.
6. Hal Smith - Makin' A Livin' With My Guitar
The tale of a little local band made good, it could be the story of JC and the T2. Having sold a million copies of his latest single, Smith advises up "don't take your guns to town, your guitar's all you need". I wonder how many copies this single actually sold!
7. Durwood Daly - That's The Way It Goes
Durwood Haddock cut this peach for the Big Springs, Texas label Caprock and it was reviewed by Billboard the day before Buddy Holly died. It sold poorly and sank without a trace. His East Dallas Dagger is a classic.
8. Dane Stinit - Always On The Go
The flip side, Don't Knock What You Don't Understand is equally good except for the organ solo.
9. Bud Landon - Six Mile Climb
Great Lutheresque picking drives this train song down the track. Not a million miles from Folsom Prison Blues, this little cracker is unlucky not to be on more rockabilly compilations. The guitar solo gets in your blood, baby this is a classic. His Running Man is nearly as good, and is also worth checking out.
10. Johnny Skiles - Come Paddle Footin' Down
Even during Johnny Cash's worst drug days he never came up with a song title quite like this.
11. Barnshakers - Five Minutes To Live
From the brilliant Five Minutes To Live album, this is a modern day tribute to the Tennesee Three sound that shows that their sound will never die while there's still disciples like this around.
12. Johnny Doe - Cab Drivin' Man
What a guy this Johnny Doe is. To these ears, this truck driving mover is the equal of the truckin' hits of the likes of Dave Dudley.
13. Dane Stinit - Flip Top Flipper
Vocally Dane Stinit had JC down to a tea. He even manages the laughing vocal mannerism that JC used to great effect.
14. Clayton Phelps - Muddy Road
Unfortunately it's muddy by name and muddy by nature. The sound may be poor but it can't hide the great music which captures the Sun sound of JC.
15. Bart Barton - Ballad of Earl K Long
A story song with strong lyrics and Barton showing of a healthy set of lungs. The band keep the beat going in finest Tennessee Two tradition.
Special mention for those that didn't quite make the top 15; Jerry Cox - Friday You Said Goodbye, Lonnie Mullins - It Was You, Lonnie Smithson - Me and the Blues and Jim Nesbitt - Cry Me A River.