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A fitting ode to the Man in Black

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Well, Jim Yorifido, actually, but the show will have the look and feel of the real thing when Yorfido and his wife Pam, channeling June Carter, take to the stage next weekend at the Commercial Tavern.
Entitled Johnny Cash: From Memphis to Folsom, the touring production covers a good swath of the life of an icon, known to generations as the Man in Black.

It’s a role Yorifido has been honing for about seven years, the latest part of a music career that spans more than four decades, since his teenage years growing up in Welland. While he’s always included some Johnny Cash songs in his repertoire –“Folsom Prison Blues” is a favourite – he really got into the swing of things when he joined The Sun Records Story, the official international touring show of the legendary Memphis-based record label that launched the career of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. Produced by Sam Phillips in the early 1950s, Sun Records was the home base for many of Cash’s best known hits, including “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Get Rhythm.”

After the run of that show, the couple decided to keep the act going, playing across the country.

“It gets a great reaction. We’re really lucky that way – we keep working,” he said this week from his home in Fort Erie.

Yorfido’s portrayal of Cash, the music icon who died in 2003, has won him plenty of accolades. In fact, it got him the role of the Man in Black in a film called Resurrection of a Guitar Hero, currently being shot in the Niagara Region. He also sings the title song.

From the makers of the award-winning Under Jakob’s Ladder, the film tells the story of up-and-coming guitarist Jimi Lazer who makes a deal with a witch to become a superstar. He buys an enchanted guitar that, when played, is supposed to bring him 30 years of fame. When he realizes the price, he tries to back out… only to find out there is no turning back.

It’s a brand-new experience for Yorfido, who’s enjoying a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking. Shooting earlier this week and next, he should be wrapped up in advance of his jaunt up to Maryhill.

With Johnny Cash: From Memphis to Folsom, you can expect all of the hits –“All the classic Johnny songs and the duets with June Carter.”

Yorfido’s voice covers the same baritone range as the man himself. The look is there, too.

“The older I get, the more I look the part,” he laughs.

The set list will include “Ring of Fire,”  “Boy Named Sue,” “I Walk the Line” and the famous duet with June Carter “Jackson” amongst other classic songs. As well, Pam Yorfido will perform some country song favourites from Tammy Wynette, including the classic “Stand by Your Man.”

Also on tap will be some of Cash’s later recordings with producer Rick Rubin, particularly his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” His covers of modern rock offerings exposed Johnny Cash to another generation of music lovers, a fact reflected in the age mix at the shows Yorifido plays.

“It’s a real mixed bag out there,” he said of the crowds, noting that’s different from some of the tribute shows he’s been involved with, where there’s definitely a much older audience.

The couple is looking forward to returning to the Commercial Tavern, praising the venue for keeping true to authentic country music and its performers.

Johnny Cash: From Memphis to Folsom  takes to the stage at the Commercial Tavern May 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644.

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