September 5, 2013

Channeling the Man in Black and Fab Four zeitgeist

Tribute bands honor Johnny Cash, Beatles during BOP events

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Harold Ford channels “The Man in Black.”

He looks like Johnny Cash. He sounds like Johnny Cash.

Ford is 100 percent Ford but, eerily, he’s given Cash and Carter fans a live taste of what they’ve been missing in The Spirit of Johnny Cash: Harold Ford, Laura Lucy & The Cash Band. The group performs Friday, Sept. 13, on the steps of City Hall during the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration.

The Cash thing started as a result of an open mike at 111 in Greenwich, N.Y., four years ago.

“It holds a hundred people,” said Ford, who grew up in Poestenkill, N.Y.

“It was packed. I went up with my guitar by myself. It wasn’t like I was a fanatic about Cash. I loved everybody. I grew up in a musical family. I used to ride my bike 10 miles to hear a musical.”

That fateful night at 111, Ford sang “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire.”

He wasn’t prepared for the full impact that has taken him from British Columbia to the Deep South.

“It’s been constant,” Ford said. “Nobody would believe how fast the word spread about this thing, about this thing that was so extraordinary. I started getting calls from hundreds of top musicians.”

The Cash Band is Sten Isachsen (lead guitar), Peter Maine (drummer), Mitch Throop (bassist) and Les Wheeler (rhythm guitar).

“My lead guitarist has a master’s in guitar,” Ford said. “My drummer worked with Roseanne Cash and her husband for two years. The bass player is a veteran of three international tours.”

Lucy is June to Ford’s Johnny. 

“She’s a friend,” Ford said. “We looked high and low. She was right there all the time. She said, ‘Can I try to audition?’ I said, ‘Sure.’”

Lucy did a song in a different style than the late June Carter Cash. Ford told Lucy to go back and listen to June.

“She came back a couple of days later, and she had it nailed,” Ford said. “It was amazing.”

Ford never saw Cash perform.

“We spent a couple of days with the Carters down in Virginia. We had Tommy Cash backstage. He was in shock. I never give one minute trying to imitate that guy (Johnny). It’s just natural,” Ford said. “The Carters (were) so nice to us. They thanked us for carrying on the Carter family songs.” 

Ford and Cash’s ancestors hail from the same part of Scotland. 

“So, I want to do some research on that,” Ford said. “We were down in Hendersonville where Cash lived. We went in a restaurant where a good friend of his was working. She saw me and heard my voice and welled up in tears. I hadn’t said anything to her. One of the Cash girls broke down in tears after the third song. The tone of voice is like a fingerprint. It upset her.”

Even Nashville’s toughest critics give Ford a nod.

“When people walk up to me and they’ve been to 15 and 20 Cash shows, they stand there in awe,” Ford said. “They can’t believe what they are seeing and hearing. It’s just amazing to me that I consistently get that.”

When he takes the stage, he introduces himself as Harold Ford.

“The Cash family appreciated it,” he said. “I feel very, very thankful, and I want it to go on as long as possible.”


At 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 12, there’s a British invasion of Hey Jude, a Beatles tribute band featuring Tom “Lennon” Raider, Brad “Paul” Jarvis, Don “Ringo” Ackerman and Rick “George” Bedrosian with Rich Coogan (keys).

They imitate the British cool of the Fab Four.

“We play music that covers all eras of the Beatles, but the main focus right now is the 50-year anniversary of each record as it comes up,” said Raider, who grew up in the Albany area. “Right now, we play a lot of songs off of ‘Please Please Me,’ which is their first record in England. The second LP in England was ‘With the Beatles.’ The cover of that was also the photo used for their American debut, ‘Meet the Beatles.’”

Raider became a Beatle maniac listening to his older sisters’ 45s. He saw the Beatles’ legendary appearance on the “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“That impression, I’m not sure how to word this, it really inspired me to pick up a guitar,” Raider said. “Now, this is my way of keeping that music and bringing it to the people and keeping it alive and entertaining multi-generations in the process.”

“Rubber Soul,” the Beatle’s sixth studio album, was the first that Raider owned.

“It wasn’t just a group of songs,” he said. “It seemed to have a theme to it, the whole atmosphere and feel to the entire record.”

Raider decided to get booted, suited and wigged up like the Beatles in 2000.

“I wanted to address every detail of the music, mannerisms, dialogue, how he (Lennon) acted on and off the stage and get the vocals right on,” Raider said. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of dedication, but every little detail mattered.”

He located the same guitar Lennon played and had the same modifications made to it. After 13 years, he still learns something new every day.

“Every time I put on a record, I hear something else to work on,” Raider said. “We take the music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We want to have fun. Even the Beatles didn’t play it perfect every time.”

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IF YOU GO Hey Jude performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Strand Theater, 25 Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh. The Spirit of Johnny Cash: Harold Ford, Laura Lucy & The Cash Band plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at City Hall steps, Plattsburgh.