JAMES GARNER (no, not that James Garner) has a deep bass-baritone voice, even in everyday conversation, and it resembles that of country music icon Johnny Cash. And when Garner sings “Folsom Prison Blues” or “I Walk the Line,” you feel as if you’re thrown back into the 1950s, at the height of Cash’s heyday.
Cover bands come and go, but Garner’s local tribute band has dedicated a decade to infusing Cash’s stories and history into their music for fans throughout the country. “We want to have a running narrative about what was going on in Johnny Cash’s life when he wrote and performed each song,” Garner says. “When folks leave, they’re going to walk away with a pretty good history about Cash from start to finish. It’s a history that demands to be told.”
Garner says that a whole generation or two didn’t grow up listening to Cash. “To bring that live music for folks to experience for the first time, and to bring back that live sound for those who did grow up with him— that’s the passion, that’s why we do it,” Garner says.
James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash is made up of Garner himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, Nick Auriemmo on drums, Denny Colleret on guitar and Rick Duncan on bass and vocals. The group plays some 50 shows a year and is a fan favorite at the Sacramento Music Festival. On April 22, Garner and crew will play at the Crest.
“Our job is to pay respect to Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three; we want to do the arrangements just the way they did,” Garner says. “It was already done to perfection by the real guys. Our job is to re-create that in a live setting.”