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The Man in Black may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.
And thanks to Nanaimo’s Dave Pittet, fans of the country legend can still hear him sing once in a while.
Well, sort of.
Pittet performs as Johnny Cash in Big River — a tribute to Cash and his music — and he’s coming to Langley’s Cascades Casino on Friday, June 10.
Strangely, perhaps, it’s not as though Pittet was a life-long fan of Cash. In fact, during his early days, the singer’s tastes ran more to good old fashioned ’70s rock and roll.
“The stuff I loved — Led Zeppelin — I couldn’t sing that, not with my deep voice,” said Pittet, over the phone.
It was about four years ago, after watching the Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix, that the idea for Big River started to flow.
“I was singing along to Walk the Line and my girlfriend said, ‘You sound more like Johnny than him,’” he laughed.
As he chats, Pittet occasionally bursts into song to illustrate a point, and, yes, the similarity to the man who inspired him is more than a little striking.
Starting out Pittet, like most people, knew many of Cash’s more popular songs, but it was only through studying and reading about the artist that he became familiar with some of his lesser known work.
“There’s so much more to him. I love a lot of his obscure tunes,” said Pittet.
And he’s happy to share them in concert.
“I do a few of those to pique people’s curiosity and educate them,” he said.
He tells a few stories along the way — each one leading into another song.
For Pittet, Cash’s iconic driving beats are a huge appeal.
“I love that track beat stuff . . . it makes you want to get up and shake a leg.”
Pittet and Big River have been touring across B.C. and Alberta for the last year and a half.
Over that time, as he’s looked out into the crowd, the singer has seen a bit of everything.
“There’s no one particular bunch of rednecks who listen to Johnny Cash,” he said.
At unlicensed shows, he’s had audience members as young as nine, at others, people as old as 90.
“We’ve had punk rockers and metal heads, the guy in the suit and little old ladies.”
The reason for the broad appeal is simple, said Pittet.
“(Cash) was reachable to anyone — he wasn’t about flash. He was a touchable guy; you could run into him at a movie theatre or walk up to him and say ‘How’re you doing?’”
“He was an ordinary fellow who had some dynamite songs.”
And while Pittet is happy to give Cash’s fans a chance to relive a few memories through song, he’s not trying to fool anyone.
“I don’t pretend to be the man, but I can get damn close with my talking voice, and even closer singing.”
For more on Pittet and Big River, go to www.johnnycashtribute.ca
Big River performs at Summit Theatre inside Cascades Casino on Friday, June 10 at 8 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.)
Tickets are $24.50, available at www.ticketweb.ca and Casino Guest Services. Call 604-530-2211.