The Johnny Cash Tribute Festival ‘Roadshow Revival’ returns to Ventura

Festival attendees enjoy the music at last year's "Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash."
Festival attendees enjoy the music at last year’s “Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash.”

Johnny Cash died just under 12 years ago, although for fans it doesn’t seem so long ago. It helps that the Man in Black influenced so many musicians in so many genres, from country to rockabilly to outlaw blues to hip hop, that his sound is never that far away. For seven years promoter, producer and “evangelist risk taker” Ross Emery has been putting together “Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash” in Ventura, starting at the Ventura Fairgrounds. This year the event expands to two whole days and has moved to Mission Park, downtown Ventura.

The center of the tribute is the lineup of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and country acts who can play what they want, as long as 30 percent of their set is made up of Cash covers. The headliners include Revered Horton Heat and Billy Joe Shaver, along with The Blasters, John Doe, Hard Six, Robert Gordon, Big River and much more, a total of 22 bands. Along with the music and the food and drink, the event offers other attractions.

Johnny Cash in the '60s
Johnny Cash in the ’60s
From left, Jimbo Wallace, bass, Reverend Horton Heat and Paul Simmons, drummer
From left, Jimbo Wallace, bass, Reverend Horton Heat and Paul Simmons, drummer
The Miss Roadshow Revival Pin Up Pageant combines the fashions of the ’50s with the sass of today, with over 20 contestants vying for a $500 first prize and free photo session with sponsor Carlos Avila Photography.

There’s also the Drive On Car & Bike Show, which showcases classic hot rods, custom cars and vintage motorcycles.

A VIP lounge gives attendees a chance to mingle with the acts, and the Kid’s Corral is for, well, kids.

The idea came from a friend, Jackie Murphy originally, but more as a hobby and a fun thing to do. Mr. Emery says he bought her out and over the years turned it into a branded event, the “biggest Johnny Cash tribute event on the West Coast,” he says. In their first year, they had six bands – all tribute bands – on one stage.

The 30-percent rule means that bands have to get creative. Not everybody will be choosing “Ring of Fire,” “Get Rhythm” or any other hit.

“They’ve gotta go back into the catalog to find songs that nobody’s heard,” Mr. Emery says. “On the other hand, you might hear Ring of Fire played ten different ways. And if you don’t like it, you can go to another stage.” (The Revival features two stages.)

For a while in the ’60s, Johnny Cash owned a house in Casitas Springs off Highway 33, while he had an office downtown. And his daughter Cindy recently moved back. Through a series of connections, Mr. Emery got in touch with Cindy, and she’s been involved on and off, giving her stamp of approval.

Mr. Emery has followed Cash’s life in some interesting parallel ways. Cash had four daughters, so does Mr. Emery; Cash found God after years of drugs and alcohol, so did Mr. Emery. “He got diabetes; and so do I,” he laughs.

“We call it Roadshow Revival because we’re reviving the spirit of Johnny Cash for a new generation,” he says. “We read out of his favorite bible. We share his gospel, we share his music, we share everything about him.”

“Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash”
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mission Park, 185 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura
Cost: $25-$205 (VIP lounge)

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