Musicians support Feed Your Neighbor by honoring legendWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town.” — Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black”
There has always been, and will always be, a great deal of disagreement over what makes a great song. Die-hard fans of every genre will stand in defiant defense of whatever they consider to be the pinnacle of the form. Yet, no matter what kind of music you love, there is one name that seems to cut across all genres and generations. If you love music, you almost certainly love Johnny Cash.
“He was an inspiration for me when I was a teenager,” said local musician Andrew Ellis in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I was big into punk rock and more metal that was going on at the time, grunge and whatnot. And I think Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and all those guys were my introduction into country, just because they represented this kind of hard-ass exterior that you wouldn’t find with Kenny Rogers or someone else that’s a little bit lighthearted.”
“Cash had the ability to convey very dark feelings and hope often simultaneously. I have always been intrigued by conflicting messages in music. Beautiful melodies that tell me horrible things,” said Lance Neil Hulsey of Kentucky Chrome.
“I will admit, I’ve always loved the machismo and the rebellious side of his music as well. I think that there’s at least a little part in everyone that loves and romanticizes the rebel,” Hulsey said.
But it isn’t just his music and attitude that speak to people to this day. Cash was well-known for his charitable side, too.
“Johnny Cash had this reputation — a guy that had some rough moments and was kinda rough around the edges, but he was a Christian,” said Larry Meyer of the group Old State Line. “And he was also well-known for his efforts —visiting the soldiers in Vietnam, or doing things like the prison shows at Folsom Prison and San Quentin and so forth.”
Feeding your neighbors
It was in that spirit of giving that Meyer was first inspired to create what has become one of the area’s most celebrated musical charity events.
“I attend Augsburg Lutheran Church on old Sylvania Avenue,” Meyer said. “And Augsburg Lutheran is the pantry for the 43612 ZIP code area, for the Feed Your Neighbor program. And I’ve probably been going there for 10 years, and in this 10-year period I’ve seen the decline in that, at that area. If I’m not mistaken, it’s one of the areas designated by the City of Toledo as a ‘tipping point.’ It could go either way.”
Feed Your Neighbor is a Toledo Area Ministries program designed to provide food to people in times of need through 14 different pantries throughout the city, Augsburg Lutheran among them. The group provided more than 78,000 bags of groceries in 2012 alone, representing over 700,000 meals. And as his church began to work toward greater community outreach, Meyer was inspired to create an event tied to both the charity and the art form he loved.
“That made me aware of the program. And the fact is, they sent out a plea for money. They needed supplies and money,” Meyer said. “So this was something I can do. This was within my skill set to put this together.”
The resulting event, Raise Some Cash, is now in its fourth year. The 2013 edition will be held at The Village Idiot in Maumee on Sunday, April 28. As has become custom for the show, the lineup of performers reads like a who’s who of local music — Ellis and Lucky Lemont, Hulsey and Kentucky Chrome, Shane Piasecki, Jeff Stewart and the 25’s, and, of course, Old State Line with Meyer will all play sets. And every one of them will feature songs either written or covered by Johnny Cash.
“From the beginning, I just adopted that as a theme,” Meyer said. “I just, No. 1, thought it was catchy. No. 2, it gave rise to a nice — instantly I could see the opportunities with the poster graphics that we could do. No. 3, I’m a big roots music fan, or Americana. And so it just fit right in. I could see the vision of what some local guys, certain local musicians … this would be a perfect fit, and it would be a lot of fun.”
‘You really need to have balls’
“I’m pals with Larry Meyer, and he and I have worked on a couple of things before with the Arts Commission, and a couple other various gigs. So he just gave me a holler, asked me to do it, and since he was involved, of course, I jumped at it,” Ellis said of his participation in the event.
Ellis, who along with his partner Lucky Lemont is a longtime mainstay on the Toledo music scene, said he feels a great deal of connection to Cash’s musical style.
“I think that there’s definitely some similarities, if not in tone, with intent — between what Lucky and I do and what Cash does,” Ellis said. “I’ve always been kind of a street guy, kind of the tough exterior, but I think that you really need to have balls to play love songs and ballads, and that’s kind of the approach that I have toward it.”
Hulsey feels a kinship to Cash, as well. The Kentucky Chrome guitarist’s experience with the Man in Black goes back to his childhood.
“My grandfather introduced me to Johnny Cash in the ’70s, although I was too young to have a real appreciation for the music and associated imagery,” he said. “Cash will always remind me of my grandfather. I was lucky to inherit his Cash record collection, which provides a nice backdrop for whiskey and smokes in the man cave.”
Hulsey was tight-lipped about which Cash tunes he and Kentucky Chrome will play during the event, but like everyone involved, he said the key would be not just emulating the original track, but taking it and making it your own — like Cash himself did when he covered other artists.
“We don’t try to duplicate the music, but rather put our own stamp on it somehow. Sometimes this just happens with very little effort. Just play it the way you feel it. Don’t think too hard. Overworked and over-contemplated music often comes off like overcooked veggies. A bit squishy and hard to digest.”
A good time for a good cause
No matter what the theme, an afternoon of amazing local music couldn’t have a better locale than The Village Idiot. The Maumee institution has a style and flavor that gives it a reputation all its own.
“Any city would be envious of a venue like The Idiot,” Hulsey said. “It’s always packed with people who are fans of live music. The Idiot always tends to book very good bands, so you can go there any given night and hear some good music.”
As the organizer of the event, Meyer added that The Village Idiot has proved an extremely gracious venue for events like his.
“They’ve been a very welcoming host, and very easy to work with and very easy to facilitate this. And they also have a history, a reputation of being associated with live music, seven nights a week, so that was helpful for us. And this event — this kind of roots, rock, rockabilly, Americana kind of thing — is very consistent with the general type of music you might find at The Village Idiot,” he said.
Raise Some Cash promises to be an amazingly entertaining event, in addition to all the good it will do for local families in need.
“Being able to see me, Shane, Kyle, Old State Line — being able to see all of them in one day is just a really great opportunity for anybody that lives around here. And of course, being able to go and drink and have a good time for a good cause is always kind of the icing on the cake,” Ellis said.
“We try and build this from the ground up as a very nice, fun afternoon of good, old fashioned bar band rock ’n’ roll,” Meyer added. “And I’m very proud of this musical lineup. And I want the musicians to feel that it was the kind of line-up of fellow musicians, and the kind of event, that they were proud to be associated with.”
Raise Some Cash begins at 3 p.m. on April 28 at The Village Idiot in Maumee, 309 Conant St. Admission is free, but a $5 donation per attendee is suggested. For more information on Feed Your Neighbor, visit tamohio.org.
Tags: Andrew Ellis, Chuck Mauk, Cindy Lipman, Dani Herrera, Dave Johnson, David Gstalder, Doug Picott., Frankie May, Jeff Stewart, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Kentucky Road, Lance Neil Hulsey, Larry Meyer, Lucky Lemont, Old State Line, Raise Some Cash, Ramsey Abu-Absi, Rayna Zacharias, The Village Idiot, Waylon Jennings