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His voice struck a chord with the fans listening

By BRIAN ORLOFF
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2003

Johnny Cash had fans of all ages. Many appreciated Cash's image as the outcast, the rebel. Others were impressed with how he interpreted all kinds of music, from rockabilly to tunes by new wavers Depeche Mode and industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails. Local Cash fans on Friday shared fond memories of the Man in Black.

Skip Mahaffey, deejay at country music station WQYK-FM 99.5

"My dad listened to Cash all the time and I can't hear a Johnny Cash song without being with my dad (in my mind). He was a working man who worked in the oil fields. Every time I hear one of those songs, I can smell the oil in my dad's clothes. I can smell the crude oil, man. It's there. It's always going to be there. And these are the songs that he turned the radio up for. And as much as it drove me nuts, when I wanted to hear the Beatles, he was playing Johnny Cash. That had an enormous influence on my life."

Vince McGilvra, owner of Skipper's Smokehouse, the north Tampa concert venue and restaurant.

"I've been a fan since the early '60s. ... I really liked his voice. It's something that gets into your soul. His songs, even if you don't listen to the lyrics, there's something about it that penetrates your soul.

"He was just an independent cuss. He, more or less, like Frank Sinatra said, did it his way. Especially the way music's gone today, they need more people like him to try and bring music back to the people rather than just being run by corporate machines (instead of) individuals with talent."

Billy Bedell, 23, employee of Lucky Clothing Store at International Plaza in Tampa

"I decided I wanted to trace back all the music I was listening to. And I really felt as if ... everything down to the guitar riffs, all the notions, all came back to him. Every punk rock song out there that uses three chords, all comes back to a train track, Johnny Cash guitar beat."

Patsy Diana, 56, a Bradenton musician who penned her own message to Cash:

"From Folsom Prison Blues to A Boy Named Sue, you entertained the throngs through the years. You were here. We'll always remember your real life songs. Keep on writing those songs for the angels up above for they will like them, too. Somewhere in the heavenly blue, you're still singing songs of love, songs of woe, songs of life, songs of strife. We'll miss you, John. We'll play your songs. And you'll live forever in our hearts."

Jayson Habel, homeless musician in St. Petersburg

"He was real dark. Deep. Kind of like the grunge of country."

Jim Hill, 37, of Tampa, who has seen Cash perform nine times

"It was an outdoor concert at Silver Springs. ... After the show I put my hand up to see if he'd come down and shake my hand. He threw me one of his harmonicas. I have a picture that I took of him playing the harmonica. ... I put his name and the date on a plaque, then I had a little shelf built on the plaque for the harmonica."

Randy Wynne, programming director for community radio station WMNF-FM 88.5

"I think Johnny Cash was an artist who just exuded authenticity. To his death, he was a guy who was always hip."


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