Payin’ Respect to the Man in Black
As is so often the case with unique artists, it takes another one to fully appreciate them. Having lived the life and music of Johnny Cash and other country heroes who came before and since, Ben Welburn, aka CASH, has effortlessly recreated the sound, vibe and appeal of the master himself.
Growing up on a farm in the heart of Yorkshire, music has always been central to Ben’s life. With a Grandfather who was a big band drummer, and a Father with a vast musical collection enthusiastically shared with whoever would listen, music was everywhere. However, it was the music of a certain JR Cash that managed that rare feat of stopping a young and energetic Ben in his tracks. It gave him that first “light bulb” moment, as he recalls, “I had heard music before, of course. But this voice. His voice. I mean it literally brought me to a standstill. The words too. They just struck a chord with me somewhere and I really felt I understood what he was saying. I got this man, even as a child I could feel it”.
As a youngster, this was the first time Ben had felt that deep connection with music and lyrics. Although Ben didn’t know it at the time, Johnny Cash would also come to be a very important figure in his life as an adult.
Investigating the man further, Ben realised it wasn’t just Cash’s musicality that they had in common. The way Cash stood up prolifically for the working class, and wasn’t some clean cut musical ideal, only served to heighten Ben’s appreciation of the man.
“JR has always been rough around the edges and I don’t know why but I always felt I was born with an outlaw’s approach to life. Not that I was out there robbing trains or anything, but it was more of a mentality; just something inside of me really”.
Aided by many late nights and a plentiful supply of hard liquor, Ben would often sing Johnny Cash songs to his mates, strumming along on acoustic guitar. Being a drummer first, it took a bit of coaxing from family and friends before Ben decided to take the Cash alter-ego seriously. “I have always felt a bit weird about pretending to be anyone else other than myself, so the concept of being Johnny Cash didn’t really appeal”, says Ben. “People were continuously telling me I had to do something with all this Cash stuff, so I decided I would start taking it more seriously, but the word tribute was key. I would pay my respects to the man by getting his stuff out there again; reaching out to established and new fans, but in no way would I try to be him. That is just not doable in my eyes, so I don’t want people thinking I think I am him. Cos I don’t!”