A Different Man, But Still In Black One musician has found more success imitating Johnny Cash than in any of his other gigs.
NPR logo

A Different Man, But Still In Black

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124414131/124414108" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Different Man, But Still In Black

A Different Man, But Still In Black

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124414131/124414108" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

: Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris explains.

KYLE NORRIS: Late at night in smoky bars, Rock Harley believes he's the Man in Black.

M: Sometimes, I think I'm Johnny Cash.

NORRIS: He goes around to restaurants, bars, state fairs and nursing homes in character, and sings his songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WALK THE LINE")

M: (Singing) I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you're mine, I walk the line.

NORRIS: Harley has always loved Johnny Cash. When Harley was a kid growing up in Detroit, he'd soak up all the Cash he could, even caught him at the State Fair.

M: And I pushed my way to the front of the stage and said, hey, Johnny, trade me guitar picks. He said, what'd you say? I said, trade me guitar picks. And he reached down and he handed me his guitar pick, and it had his name on it, Johnny Cash.

NORRIS: But just being Johnny Cash wasn't enough. See, Harley says he's always been the kind of guy who likes to help people out. So he's taking newer, younger impersonators under his wing.

M: Would you please give me a nice round - hand of applause for Patsy Cline.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

M: (as Patsy Cline) (Singing) I've got your picture...

NORRIS: Erin Babb is the woman who plays Patsy Cline. She says Harley has a wealth of musical knowledge, and he's coached her on several aspects of her performance.

M: Personability, the interaction with the crowd, the pauses between the songs - you have got to make them love you.

NORRIS: Harley played music for years, but when he was playing that '50s and '60s music, he says he never really made it big on his home turf. But Harley says with this Johnny Cash thing, he's booking more and more shows each month.

M: I thought I had my minute in the sun years ago with the '50s and '60s, and now it seems Johnny Cash is taking over, becoming a phenomenal thing everywhere I go.

NORRIS: For NPR News, I'm Kyle Norris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE BEEN EVERYWHERE")

M: (Singing) I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere, man. Across the desert as bare, man, I've breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel, I've had my share, man. I've been everywhere.

: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.