"The Lowry - Sunday 15th January 2012
It has been nine years since the death of the ‘man in black’ and Johnny Cash is still encouraging audiences from all over the world. The ‘Ring of Fire’ was definitely set alight this evening at the Lowry in Salford Quays in The Johnny Cash Story. Roger Dean plays the man in black’s turbulent and heart warming life, detailing Cash’s career from his birth in 1932 to his death in 2003.
The show opened to the audience in darkness where only a short audio excerpt from Cash set the tribute mood of the evening. The stage appeared deliberately bare which ensured that the audience’s attention would not be distracted from Dean. Dean was predictably dressed in black, and his band ‘The Lazy Boys’ following suit. Hits of the evening included I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire, Delilah’s Gone, Bird On A Wire, Five Feet High and Rising and 24 minutes.
The self biographical show meticulously discusses Cash’s life starting with his early big break from Sam Phillips at Sun Records, right through to his collaboration with producer Rick Rubin in his later life. Johnny Cash got a lot of his ideas for his songs from events in his life, like his two marriages, his addiction to amphetamines and tranquilisers, and his tragic but failed suicide attempt. Inspiration for lyrics allowed Cash to create the material like ‘I Walk the Line’ that is still listen to decades after it was initially released in 1956. Cash’s life appeared to decline rapidly when his wife June Carter passed away in May 2003 which ultimately added to demise of cash himself. It is said that Cash never really accepted his wife’s death and due to poor health died a mere four months later.
The overall feel of the evening was pleasurable. Dean’s obvious passion for Cash easily transcends to the audience and allows a two way appreciation of the legend himself. Dean has been playing Cash since he initially debuted on BBC Cardiff on a show named ‘All Your Own’ when he was just 14. His career includes studying music and drama, entertaining on cruise ships and later becoming cruise director for several cruise companies. Dean professes that since 2004 he wanted to pay homage to his boyhood music hero Johnny Cash, permitting that he wouldn’t be a stars in your eyes tribute. Fortunately Dean encompasses Cash’s spirit and talent, without trying to be an exact replica of the man himself and he does it with appealing humour, wit and precision.
From the perspective of a newcomer to Johnny Cash’s music this show was extremely enjoyable and educational. I thought that Dean’s portrayal of Cash was touching and realistic and he demonstrated that he is a very talented standalone performer as well. I would recommend the Johnny Cash Story to anyone who appreciates a fantastic story, an unforgettable lyricist and an entertaining performance combined.
Johnny Cash has significantly contributed towards the music industry and his music will always be recognised with great accolade."
"At the Lowry on Sunday 15th January the Salford crowd where treated to an incredible evening of “music and story telling magic” as the promotion told us and what an evening. The legend that is Johnny Cash and the worlds most loved outlaw has a history that is in “safe hands” were Roger Dean is concerned.
Dean is no “tribute performer” in the ordinary cheap sense of the word. Having had varied degrees of stardom from his pop career in the 1960 to West End stardom alongside Ian McKellan and Tom Bell plus a prestigious acting career in theatre whilst managing many stars that are today house-hold names we must be grateful for performers like Roger Dean. He is as at home on the stage as any of our legendary stars of days gone by and I imagine that given the opportunity he could be the all-round performer that the likes of Bruce Forsyth has become and he would make the Saturday night presenter that we wish would grace our screens again. He has a presence on the stage that demands respect from those attending and this only helps to bring the strong spirit of Johnny Cash through to the audience.
Roger is backed by his band “The Lazy Boys” and it must be noted that his band are anything but lazy! Warren James on guitar is quite rightly compared to the likes of Albert Lee and James Burton but unlike these veteran pros he has the youth on his side and he could be a star in his own right with his high vocal delivery which has haunting tones of past stars like Hank Williams and Buddy Holly. When I spoke with Warren after the show I was not at all surprised to find that his greatest influences are the historic names mentioned. Lonnie Donegan rates highly upon his list of influences and I can see why. Along with his knowledge and admiration for these past stars it only leaves you in high admiration for the young man himself. His energy as a player is remarkable and the way he works with Dean on stage is a pleasure to watch as the two performers exchange glances throughout with a look of equal respect as if one knows what the other is thinking.
Barry Meek on the bass is a real dark horse as a performer, appearing cool – calm and collected at all times he has a look of being a well lived professional of his trade and as we discovered he has been a major touring musician throughout his life and he has also managed / promoted many big stars and shows world wide and his intervention played a small hand in Roger Dean’s own rise to stardom back in the 60s (a subject which Dean reviews with much humour throughout the show). Barry as a bass player is rock-solid and for those who do not understand musicianship this is exactly what a bass player should be and he was indeed a charming man to speak to afterwards and he also shows as much enthusiasm for this show as Dean and James. He works closely with the drummer like a true professional.
Finally I will come to a vital member of the band. Steve Pycroft on drums. Having researched him and looking through his website I find a talented young man. Steve and Warren make up the two younger members in the band whilst Barry and Roger make up the wisdom and I feel it is that balance that makes this show the greatest Johnny Cash show that I have seen. Steve is a sympathetic drummer and I watch him create the extreme atmosphere of the saloon-bar punch up between father and son in the song “A Boy Named Sue” and the extreme rhythm of the rocking locomotive in Folsom Prison – a talented drummer who is not to be reckoned with is as much at home on the stage as he is in the recording studio or arranging orchestrations. Steve Pycroft is top class and simply awesome. Pycroft and Warren James work very closely throughout the show ensuring songs come to a good climax or a gentle finish and so much of this is achieved through body language alone – exchanging smiles and humour throughout the night I often wonder whether the people on stage realise that it is only because they are so clearly having fun that we the audience are having fun? Whether they know it or not it is this strong reality that stands.
As impressive as they all are within their own right it is vital to recognise that it is the sum of their talents when brought together that made the night of a sold out Lowry theatre and it is the man at the front of the stage that inspires the best out of them at the very moment the curtain goes up and it is the LEGEND that is Johnny Cash that brings Dean’s career full circle and to whom he stands to salute in such a remarkable show that brings what must be the most PERFECT of nights out to an enjoyable conclusion “DO NOT MISS THE JOHNNY CASH STORY starring ROGER DEAN and THE LAZY BOYS”
The Lowry, Salford
Sunday 15th January 2012"
"A tribute to the original Man in Black proved a runaway success at Strathpeffer Pavilion last night (Thursday).
The iconic venue attracted a 'full house' for The Johnny Cash Story as sung by ROGER DEAN.
The evening opened with a hint of drama as the hall was plunged into darkness before commentary on the life of and times of the legend that was Johnny Cash.
Under cover of this ROGER DEAN, who was there to sing the story with his backing band, THE LAZY BOYS, came on to the stage unnoticed and began to sing 'I Walk The Line' as the lights came on.
Roger began by giving some details of Cash's early life-and also stated that he was not trying to be Johnny Cash as there could only be one. This brought a cheer from the audience, which was a mixture of ages from the early twenties upwards.
He kept the audience enthralled with his tales of Johnny's early life and the origins of many of his songs. He brought humour into the story with references to Jeremy Clarkson, asking what type of car he had, when introducing "One Piece at a Time", but also portrayed the sadness of some of the events in the singers life.
The first half of the eveing was dedicated to many of the singers well known songs, whilst the second half brought to light many of his not so well-known ballads.
At the end of the evening the audience were loath to let him leave the stage and managed to pursuade him to give a few more of the legendary hits from The Man in Black. A wonderful, superb, night of entertainment from a man who really knows his business."
"When the SoGlos.com team heard that a Johnny Cash tribute band was coming to town, they joined a league of other county fans in snapping up tickets for the one-night-only performance at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury.
The Saturday night show soon came around and, as fans of the legendary country music performer took their seats, tension mounted while whispers of 'Do you think he'll look like him?' and ' wonder if he'll sound anything like Cash?' filled the room.
Questions were answered when the curtains opened to reveal a clad-in-black Roger Dean, accompanied by band members David Boldero, Bengy Howell and Ollie Krol making up The Lazy Boys, breaking into a triumphant rendition of Cash's best-known numbers.
For the next couple of hours fans were taken on a whirlwind tour of Johnny Cash's life and musical repertoire, with a plethora of numbers including 'I Walk The Line', 'Get Rhythm', 'Folsom Prison Blues', 'Five Feet High and Rising' and 'The Ballad of Ira Heyes' interjected with authentic storytelling magic care of Dean's deep, husky tones.
Highlights of the night included the lead performer's hints towards Cash's on-stage presence with the occasional raising of the shoulders and using his guitar to mimic shooting fellow band members, while tributes to tracks 'A Boy Named Sue', 'One Piece At A Time' and 'Delia's Gone' proved particularly notable.
Throughout the night it became apparent that, rather than attempting to mimic the great Johnny Cash, the band had developed their own style over the years, treating Gloucestershire audiences to a slick, tried and tested show which had taken in some of the world's biggest cities. In fact, a reference to having played in 'Hong Kong, New York and… Tewkesbury' went down particularly well with The Roses Theatre audience, from the mature performer who had dedicated decades of his life to the music of Cash since first hearing him on the radio at the age of 12.
Roger Dean and The Lazy Boys should also be commended for laughing along with a few rowdy front row fans who might have enjoyed one too many moonshines, as well as keeping a straight face when a brave volunteer from the audience joined the professionals on stage for a duet of 'Jackson'. Whether you're a hardened 20th century fan of Cash or discovered his music after watching the 2005 blockbuster Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix, keep your eyes open for any Roger Dean reappearances in the county and indeed nationwide – you won't be disappointed."
"Last Thursday's return visit of country singer Roger Dean to the Brewhouse proved a sellout with Roger leading an enthusiastic audience in a tribute to Johnny Cash.
Like Johnny, Roger is a natural storyteller and captured the spirit of the man and his music. He relived the highs and lows of Cash's life, from his childhood in the cotton fields, through his ,most successful years, to his death from a debilitating disease. An evening of excellent entertainment from a singer worthy of johnny Cash."
Alex Cole (Somerset County Gazette)
"The spirit of Johnny Cash was captured at Tamworth Assembly Rooms last Saturday throughout the concert 'Roger Dean sings the Johnny Cash Story'.Birmingham born Dean delighted the audience with his fascinating account of Cash's life from childhood in Arkansas to his death in September 2003.
A life that encompassed poverty, hardship and addiction but also great happiness and success these experiences formed the basis of his amazing songs and music. Dean's portrayal of the man he so admired was at times spooky – he sounded so much like the real Johnny Cash.
He interpreted classics including Sunday Morning, Ring of Fire, A Boy Named Sue and many more. Supported in great musical style by the Lazy Boys, Bengy Howel on keyboards, Freddie Allen on drums and David Boldero on bass guitar, the evening ended with the audience on their feet as much in tribute to the talent of Dean as to the memory of Johnny Cash."
"Roger Dean brought the audience (at the August Bank Holiday weekend) to their feet with a standing ovation on the first night of his highly entertaining tribute to the icon 'Johnny Cash'.
Roger,also known for his relaxing style of entertainment as compere of 'Search For A Star' at the Princess Theatre, Hunstanton, showed us another side to his talents with this very versatile and professional performance. He was backed by an excellent group, 'The Lazy Boys' Benjie Howell (a young man with eceptional talent and for whom I see a great future in the music world) Ollie Kroll on drums / percussion, and, by no means last, David Boldero, bass. The package was superb, not overpowering, and well balanced. The audience on Saturday was very enthusiastic as Roger narrated the story of Johnny Cash's life as well as singing many of his popular and not so well known songs. These included 'A Boy Named Sue' 'Ring Of Fire' 'Hurt' 'The Man Comes Around' 'I Walk The Line' and many others.
I understand that this show, which has future bookings all over the country, has received standing ovations at every venue in which they have appeared and they were not let down by the Heacham audience.
I learned after the show that their amplification blew up at 6.10 p.m. and as true professionals they carried on with only half their equiment working! Also, Roger Dean himself was suffering from a very bad throat virus! Well, no one in the audience would have known but this just shows Roger as the true performer that he is with a lifetimes experience in show business.
As both nights were a 'sell-out' perhaps Roger and The Lazy Boys will return again at some future date. Until then, we wish them well and thanks for giving us the opportunity to see and enjoy "The Johnny Cash Story"."
" A letter to: Birmingham Mail, Thursday 17th February 2011
In these times of doom and gloom, once again the people of Birmingham can be proud of themselves. I visited the Alexandra theatre to watch the brilliant Johnny Cash Story and was pleased to see all the theatre-goers happy, smiling and being courteous. I would like to say Roger Dean, The Lazy Boys and all the staff at the Alexandra Theatre-stand up and take a bow! "
Mike, Birmingham - FAN
"Sir, Can I through your paper say what a great nights entertainment we had at Rotherham Civic Theatre on Saturday, June 20th when we saw Roger Dean and The Lazy Boys sing a tribute to Johnny Cash. I'm certain that the Man in Black would have been proud to hear Roger's interpretation of his music.
Freddy, on percussion, gave a great beat backing with a rhythm that made it impossible to keep your feet still. Benjamin, on keyboards, gave us some great sounds from orchestral to honky- tonk piano, to a haunting brass sound for The Indian-Ira Hayes.
I know the bass was electronically produced but what a sound and what depth it gave to the music.
Now to the man himself, Roger Dean. He is the nearest I have ever heard to Johnny Cash ever. The intonation, soul and feeling in the songs was incredible.
As well as the marvellous voice Roger is a master of the guitar and almost made it talk to us.
Not only did we get some great music but Roger also spoke about Johnny's life, both the ups and downs and where his singing and writing came from.
A very big thank you to top class artistes for an excellent night. "
"There could hardly be a better time to launch a tribute show to Johnny Cash. The late country singer's music has grown in popularity in recent years and tonight sees the release of Walk the Line, the Oscar-nominated film about his life.
So when Norfolk-based entertainer Roger Dean announced a series of concerts celebrating his life you'd be forgiven for assuming that he had planned it that way, but in fact Roger had more than a stroke of luck.
"My business partner, David Boldero, came up and said 'Let's give this a go' some time ago, not realising that they were doing this Walk the Line biopic," said Roger.
"We booked the theatres and then heard about the film, and now it is up for the Oscar!"
Cash's star has been on the rise again for the past decade and since his death in 2003, at the age of 71, it has shown no sign of waning.
The new film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as his wife June Carter Cash, and they have been respectively nominated for the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars.
It focuses on the early years of his career in the mid-1950s, when he was recording songs such as I Walk the Line at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
It wasn't until more than a decade later that Cash, nicknamed the Man in Black for his dress style and demeanour, came to wider prominence with the crossover hit A Boy Named Sue. The film should ensure a new generation is hooked by his music.
But Roger, from Heacham, was a fan from the early days after hearing his music on the radio as a teenager.
At the age of 14, in 1962, Roger appeared on a BBC children's television talent show called All Your Own, presented by Huw Wheldon. Roger sang a Cash song called Tennessee Flat Top Box and was then asked by the BBC to appear on several radio shows.
"I have always been grateful to Johnny Cash in that sense, because he gave me a way in to becoming an entertainer," he says.
"Over the years I have done things ranging from touring as Postman Pat to appearing in a West End musical with Sir Ian McKellen, but I have always had an interest in country music and Johnny Cash in particular.
"When I was young I started to like people who did story songs, rather than love songs - I was into that kind of music. I tuned in the radio and picked up some station that was playing Johnny Cash. We had a tape recorder and I learned how to play the songs from that."
Now he is touring a three-man show, entitled Roger Dean Sings the Johnny Cash Story, with his partner David on bass and keyboardist Benjie Howell.
The show isn't a Stars in Their Eyes style impersonation in full Man in Black costume, but Roger does possess a similarly deep and resonant voice.
"He naturally sounds like Johnny Cash, but doesn't dress like him," said David.
"It's about getting the feel and the essence of it."
Between singing classic numbers such as Big River, Ring of Fire and Sunday Morning Coming Down, Roger also describes Cash's rise from poverty-stricken beginnings in rural Arkansas to world stardom.
The singer was actually born with the name J Cash - he had to change it when serving in the US Air Force, which would not accept initials as a name.
At the age of five he was working in the cotton fields of the family farm, which was flooded when the Mississippi burst its banks. This formative incident later inspired him to write the song Five Feet High and Rising, which is featured in Roger's musical version of his life story.
Although he has been performing Cash's music for most of his life, this is the first time that he has performed this dedicated show.
The music featured goes right from his early days, when he produced his classic recordings with the minimal backing of Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, to his revival in the final decade of his life.
In 1993, producer Rick Rubin, until then best known for his work with rap and hard rock artists, began recording the ageing Cash singing a selection of new songs, intriguing cover versions such as U2's One, and new versions of his older material.
Throughout his career he wrote more than 500 songs and a representation will be featured in Roger's show.
"We have got a show of more than two hours so we can play all the songs that were associated with him, from his early work to the later stuff to - music from right across his career."
Roger Dean Sings the Johnny Cash Story is at the Little Theatre, Sheringham, on March 3, Gorleston Pavilion on March 11 and the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich, on April 5 - contact the venues for ticket information."
"To be entertained by Roger Dean at the Wulfrun Hall last night (Sunday) was indeed a privilege. I'm sure that many of us were a little apprehensive about him appearing as the Legend. We need not have feared, he has captured the spirit of the man, and his music, our memories of Johnny Cash are in safe hands.
He astounded us with his magnificent impression of Johnny's singing and speaking voice. As he launched into all the hits including I walk the line, San Quentin, Man in black, etc. The audiences response was rapturous applause after each song.
In between songs Roger told Johnnys story so eloquently and I was left wandering where he gets his energy from. We enjoyed two hours of nostalgia from a master at his trade. I am sure Roger your new friends from the Wulfrun Hall will agree with me when I say you should be playing The Albert Hall! "
Audience Member (Wulfron Hall, Wolverhampton)
"I was at The Johnny Cash Story in Whitley Bay last Saturday and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the show. It's a shame you guys were only there for one evening as I could have listened to you over and over again. You guys are amazing. Thank you for the music. Heather"
"Roger Dean sings The Johnny Cash Story now has a fan page on Facebook where you can keep in touch with both fans of show and the Man In Black himself. Please find us at: www.facebook.com/johnnycashstory"
"My sister treated me to your show at Birmingham Alex on Friday. It was absolutely fantastic. She loved it as well, you had her in tears along with many others sitting around us when you described Cash's last days and played the song for June. Fantastic backing too. That guitarist is kinda special. Once again congrats on a fantastic show - you must come back so we can bring more friends along because we've never seen a show quite like yours, the layout is remarkable, story told and music inbetween, simple yet stunning effect - the standing ovation from the entire building says it all doesn't it?"
James, Birmingham - FAN
"I saw your article in the Birmingham Mail - well done on your success. Any how what a star quality show and to learn from your brochure that you starred alongside Sir Ian McKellan in the West End is remarkable in its self. You are a true legend Mr Dean, Johnny would be proud."
John, Birmingham - FAN
"Just to say thank you very much for a wonderfully entertaining night on 11th Feb in Birmingham. A Christmas gift well worth it's pennies - brilliant!"
Dawn, Birmingham - FAN