WEST OCEAN CITY — Tom Cavanagh and his band threw in the occasional Johnny Cash song as part of their own original shows for years and their renditions were popular with the crowds because they were spot-on. Eventually they began to discuss doing a tribute show and tour.
For his part, Cavanagh already had more than a little experience touring both with original acts as well as having participated in tribute shows. While he endorsed the notion, he let it be known how important it was that the show not be farcical or slap-dash. The group resolved to take the time and make the effort not only to get make sure they were authentic, but also to ensure that the show was worth people’s time.
“It’s a Broadway-level show,” Cavanagh said. “The stage is always changing.”
The first order of business, then, was to go and get some Carters. The group already had one woman singer and recruited two more to round out the team. The rest of the band, which was already familiar with the better part of Cash’s songbook, and Cavanagh got to work and before too long, Walking The Line was booked in small theaters all over the country.
Although Walking The Line pays tribute to The Man in Black’s entire career, the stage show is very much what Cash and the Carters were performing in the late 60s and early 70s when Cash was recording the live albums — Folsom Prison is the most famous — that have made in an American icon.
While Cavanagh and the rest of the group have the sets pretty well choreographed, the feel is similar to the way the shows were run at that time, with the Carters coming on for some of their own songs while Cash cools it off stage and the more intimate acoustic stuff featuring Cash and his guitar alone.
“I’m familiar with the tribute perfromances,” Cavanagh said.
Cavanagh said that they tried to balance the authenticity of the show with the fact that the better part of the audience now comes to see and hear Johnny Cash. The Carters don’t get as much time as they might have on some of the nights of the tour.
The other liberty Cavanagh said they elected to take is that his Johnny Cash looks much more as he did in the early 60s. This is as much a function of Cavanagh’s age and the hairstyle he chooses to portray as it is the fact that people like to see the young, vital Cash walking the stage again.