Nashville recording artist to present 'Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond Tribute' show

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Oct. 26—Nashville recording artist Doug Allen Nash will present the "Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond Tribute" show at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 4, at the Empire Art Center in downtown Grand Forks.

Tickets are $30 for general admission or $50 for a VIP pass, which includes the opportunity to meet Nash backstage and receive an autographed picture and Johnny Cash CD. To purchase tickets, call the Empire at 701-746-5500 or go online to www.empireartscenter.com.

In the two-hour show, Nash emulates Johnny Cash in voice and signature guitar moves.

"Johnny Cash, of course, is Americana. We do all of his classic songs — the songs you expect to hear," Nash said, "and then we do some stuff you probably wouldn't expect to hear."

In his tribute to Neil Diamond, Nash will be performing Diamond hits, including "Cracklin' Rose," "Sweet Caroline," "Red Red Wine," "Play Me," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "America," "Solitary Man" and "I'm a Believer."

Nash dresses in the style of each artist and reflects their mannerisms, "but his rich, smooth baritone is all his own," said publicist Debbie Silverman Krolik, a native of Grand Forks who resides in Chicago.

"Audiences come to hear the music of Cash and Diamond, but it is Doug Allen Nash they always remember at the end of the evening," she said.

In the tribute show, Nash will be accompanied by The Nash A-List Big Band, which includes string and horn players.

The performance is visually enhanced by a $60,000 light show with a colorful, eye-catching video wall, highlighting the lives of Cash, Diamond and Nash.

"It helps to tell the story, especially with Johnny Cash," Nash said.

Nash is mindful of the responsibility that comes with performing as Cash, he said. "Johnny had signature stuff that you would expect or see; it's fun to do — and even from the guitar behind the back and all the things that he did. You know you're paying tribute to an icon and he was a trendsetter. I think that's probably the thing that makes it fun, the guy was a trendsetter."

Chance meeting

He had the opportunity to meet Cash in an airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the musical legend and his two daughters were shopping in a leather goods store.

"(They) were looking at leather jackets," recalled Nash, who at the time was on a USO tour with his nine-piece band. "I walked up to him and introduced myself."

"We started talking and we talked about where he had been, we talked about Nashville, a little bit about songwriting," said Nash, who asked Cash if he would mind walking about 30 yards down the corridor to meet members of his band. Cash agreed.

As the legendary musician talked band members and signed autographs, Nash said, "I remember looking at him, he had broken blood vessels under his eyes and on his nose — and so, as a young kid, I thought, man, this guy must've lived hard. But he had a real presence; he had that 'it' factor."

So many people relate to Johnny Cash because he was "raw, real, and he tried to be truthful. ... I think that's why we, especially guys, respect him, and know no man's perfect," Nash said, "but Johnny Cash did a full circle."

That chance meeting was the inspiration for the tribute show. Nash received the blessing of Grammy Award-winning producer John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, to honor "The Man in Black" this way. Carter Cash has recorded Nash's albums at the Cash-Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Nash has performed the Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond Tribute show to sold out houses across the country, headline in theaters, casinos, performing arts centers and outdoor venues, including Caesar's Palace and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on the Vegas Strip; Hollywood's famed Viper Room; Nashville's Opryland; and the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

Farm boy at heart

Nash is looking forward to his return to the Empire Art Center, where he performed two years ago to a sellout crowd, he said. As the owner of a corn and soybean farm in northwest Illinois, he feels a special kinship with people in the Midwest.

Like other sectors of the economy, the entertainment industry was hit hard by the pandemic in 2020, Nash said, as events and performances were cancelled or postponed.

"We were lucky, we weathered through, I think, better than a lot," he said. "I think a lot of bands and musicians got out of the business. It's sad in so many ways, too; you take people — actors, musicians or entertainers — going to LA, Nashville or New York, there were, no doubt, dreams shattered and some people will never have that chance again."

However, Nash feels fortunate to have had extra time off from his usual travel schedule, he said.

The pandemic gave him "quality time" to be with his mother, who was suffering from dementia and living in a nursing home about 15 minutes from his farm. That time was cut short though; the facility was shut down for about six months.

"We'd still go see her, through the window, like millions of Americans have done — watched their loved ones or friends suffer alone or through a window," he recalled. "We experienced that trauma, like so many have. And I think that's something that'll stay with us for the rest of our lives."

When the shutdown was lifted last October, he and other family members could take walks with her on nursing home grounds, but that was short-lived as there was yet another shut-down. On Oct. 23, nursing home staff suggested Nash take his mother home.

"She knew where she was at; she still knew who we were," he said. "She died in my arms" the next day, with family members around her.

Music was a big part of his mother's life; she bought him his first guitar when he was 8, Krolik said, "and it is with that spirit he continues to bring happiness to others with his own musical gifts."

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