A decade after his death, Johnny Cash’s songs still hold an indescribable power over audiences, his younger brother says.
“He impressed people, millions of people, with his original style,” Tommy Cash said. “He passed away in 2003, and his music is as popular as it ever was. My mother knew that, from a young age, Johnny was different.”
Tommy, youngest of the seven Cash kids and a singer since the ’60s, carries on a tradition of music from country’s golden era with that rumbling voice, the unmistakable Cash sound.
Tommy and his six-member band, The Cash Crew, tour the country entertaining audiences with a show Tommy calls family-friendly. The group mixes together some of Tommy’s song (including his biggest hit, “Six White Horses”) and Johnny’s most memorable pieces, sometimes along with stories about the Cash family and Tommy’s personal journey as a Christian.
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“I’m not a fanatical religious person, but I am a Christian and I love to talk about the Lord,” he said.
Tommy and sister Joann are the two Cash siblings still living, and he said his love for music — acquired as a child when his family would gather around their mother at the family’s piano to sing country, folk and gospel of the day — will keep him performing as long as he can.
“We miss them all,” he said. “We miss Johnny. We miss everything about him.
“My mother, she was the inspiration for all of us in the family. As long as I can stay healthy and feel like I’m doing a good show, I’ll continue.”
His Christian parents, he said, instilled a love for music in all the kids, but he and Johnny were the only two to pursue singing as a career. Tommy formed his first band in high school and, after graduation, enlisted in the Army, where he deejayed for Armed Forces Radio Network.
After his Army service, he played with Hank Williams Jr., and then landed a deal with Musicor in 1965.
In 1966, he joined United Artists and almost made the country Top 40 in 1968 with “The Sounds of Goodbye.” The next year, he released “Six White Horses” with Epic Records.
He followed that with two Top Ten singles: “One Song Away” and “Rise and Shine,” in 1970.
“I made my first record in January of 1965 and traveled all over the free world in the last 48 years, doing some of my songs, my brother’s songs, standards and gospel songs.”
He keeps busy off-stage, too. As an avid golfer, he hits the links in pro-celebrity tournaments, and he works as a Tennessee real estate agent in between singing tours and gigs inspiring audiences as a personal speaker. He’s shared his story everywhere from TV networks to AA meetings. His brother’s struggle with drugs and his own battle with alcoholism as well as his reliance on prayer were woven into an interview on “The 700 Club.”
Those gospel roots remain in his music and are part what he calls his greatest desire, to serve God as long as he lives.
The audience at Centre Hall will be the first to hear Tommy in a special performance with another member of country royalty, Georgette Jones, daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and a nurse-turned-full-time-songstress.
The younger Jones has released a new gospel CD, “I Believe,” this year and also has written a memoir about growing up with her Country Music Hall of Fame parents.
Tommy says blending honky-tonk shows just makes sense.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Cash said. “She’s a fine singer and entertainer, and it’s going to be a fun show.”