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Ode to Johnny Cash: Jack Remington pays tribute to the 'Man in Black' in song

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By KEN BECK
The Wilson Post

A Lebanon mans encounter with Johnny Cash more than 50 years ago in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse has finally birthed its way from his soul into a song.

Jack Remingtons When He Sang sounds astonishingly like a tune that the late country music legend, nicknamed the Man in Black, might himself have recorded.

The song really tells a story, said Remington, 77, who co-wrote the song with Lebanon tunesmith Roy August and recorded it with his wife Dollie McFarland.

It was fall of 1962 on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. It was a slow night in a coffeehouse, and Johnny Cash wandered in. He was skinny and shaky and his eyes were all sunken in, and he looked like he was all down on that stuff, recollected Remington.

Once he wandered in, word was out on the street, and in no time the place filled up. We talked him into singing. At first it seemed like he was making fun of himself. We all got into it. We were all singing along with him and having a good time.

And as the show went on, you could see his spirit picking up. By the time he got off of the stage, his shoulders were square and he had a glint in his eye, said Remington.

And thats exactly the story the song presents.

Remington penned his Cash tribute about three years ago, inspired by the days he and Miss Dollie spent performing in the basket houses of Greenwich Village. The joints were called basket houses because the musicians would pass the basket for tips after they played.

The song wasnt quite coming together, so I called my friend Roy August, and he put in his years of professional experience of writing, and we pulled this together, Remington said of putting the final touch on the tune.

I thought it was unique, different. I worked with it and its where it is, said August, who co-wrote Fancy Free, a No. 1 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys in 1981. It reminds me of days when they had the hootnannies. They call it Americana now.

Remington and McFarland, both Lone Star State natives, have been making music more than half a century in such places as the Big Apple, the Far East, Los Angeles and Nashville. Along the way they met such performers as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons and Peter Tork of the Monkees.

They also wrote songs for the publishing company owned by the 1970s pop duet Seals & Crofts of Diamond Girl and Summer Breeze fame.

This past summer the duo recorded the song in a Nashville studio with Rusty Sweeton on lead guitar and Patio Daddio on bass guitar.

It was spectacular to meet Johnny Cash. He was a warm, friendly guy, reminisced Dollie.

The singer-songwriter said that former American Idol contestant Drew Poppelreiter plans to record the tune in June

In the meantime, folks can hear the song, as well as download it for 50 cents, at his web site, jackremington.net.

We know we're bucking the odds in a youth-oriented music world, so we ask that peoplewho likeour song, please tell their friends.My dream, said Remington, is to be able to get up on a stage with a good backup group and a full house.

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