POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD : Johnny Cash Still Knows How to Reach Joe’s Heart

As far as much of middle America is concerned, Johnny Cash--appearing tonight at Humphrey’s on Shelter Island--ranks right up there on the hero list with the late John Wayne.

For more than three decades, the legendary country singer with the crumbling rock of a baritone--and a face to match--has consistently managed to find his way into the heart of the average working-class Joe by singing about subjects Joe can either relate to or romanticize over.

Among his best are “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “I Got Stripes,” “Understand Your Man,” “Big River,” “Ring of Fire” and “Orange Blossom Special,” the latter a classic “train song” that is said to have inspired Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans.”

Like so many country artists, Cash started out singing rockabilly. In the middle 1950s, he was part of what has become known as the Million-Dollar Quartet, an impromptu group of Sun Records label mates including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.


Unlike the others, however, Cash soon returned to his country roots and has since scored almost 130 hits on the Billboard country charts, more than any other artist except George Jones. He also veered on such album projects as 1964’s “Bitter Tears,” which bemoans the mistreatment of the American Indian, and teamed with Bob Dylan at the height of Dylan’s anti-Establishment posturings.

And from Cash’s official bio comes the revelation that the Man in Black has even “fished with Mick Jagger.”

Speaking of whom . . .

Just a suburb. Once again, San Diego gets snubbed. The Rolling Stones’ just-announced reunion tour will take them to 31 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Between now and Sept. 27, the aging English supergroup will be appearing in virtually every major U. S. city, including New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and New Orleans.


Conspicuously absent from the list is San Diego, despite the Stones having played to a sold-out crowd at Jack Murphy Stadium on their last tour in 1981. A call to the Rolling Stones’ tour office in New York revealed there’s still a lot of ignorance about our fair burg. A woman who gave her name only as Dawn said the reason the Stones decided to skip San Diego is really quite simple: “They’re playing Los Angeles.”

Yes, but Los Angeles and San Diego are two separate, 120- mile-apart cities. And big ones at that, respectively ranked second and seventh in terms of U. S. population.

“Oh,” said Dawn.

None of this surprises Ted Edwards, program director for local album-rock radio station KGB-FM (101.5). “That gives us a rough idea of how San Diego is perceived by the industry,” he said. “Who knows when we’ll be rid of the stigma of being a suburb of Los Angeles?”


Liner notes: Aside from the normal specifications regarding sound, lights, accommodations, and backstage food, the rider for Rod Stewart’s July 28 concert at the San Diego Sports Arena calls for “a lone bagpiper” to roam through the crowd before the start of the show. Stewart is partial to Scottish culture. . . . Traditionally, heavy-metal acts enjoy the biggest concert “walk-up"--tickets purchased at the door rather than in advance. But, of the 14 acts that have appeared so far in this year’s Concerts by the Bay series at Humphrey’s, the walk-up leader is the most un-metallic, Leo Kottke, who played there last Friday with fellow acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges. . . .

Local rockabilly-blues trio the Paladins have arrived in England for the final eight dates in their three-week European tour. They’ll be back in town next week for a July 28 homecoming performance at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. . . . Twelve years ago this week, San Diego singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop’s biggest hit reached its highest chart position. “On and On” peaked on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 11. . . .

Bob Dylan’s upcoming Starlight Bowl concert has been moved back a day to Sept. 6. . . . Tickets go on sale Friday at 3 p.m. for Joe Jackson’s Aug. 26 appearance at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theater, and Saturday at 10 a.m. for the Aug. 27 Jackson Browne concert, also at the Open Air Theater.