COTTAGE GROVE – Many fans probably never realized that Johnny Cash and Elvis were so closely linked.
Of course, two particular performers – Cottage Grove’s Larry E. Thompson and Eugene’s David Lomond, the “Hawaiian Voice of the King” – aren’t quite as famous as the gentlemen they impersonate. Still, the audience at the Bohemia Mining Festival gave them a warm welcome on a hot Thursday as they kicked off three days of memorable music.
“I grew up here, then I moved to Hawaii for 20 years,” Thompson said. “I came back in ’96, and I performed off and on with Hawaiian Elvis since 1997.”
While Thompson in the past has covered Gordon Lightfoot (“They used to call me ‘Larry Lightfoot’ in Hawaii”), Buddy Holly, Neil Diamond, Ricky Nelson, Willie Nelson (complete with a Willie wig), and others, Thursday’s show was all about the Man In Black and his sidekick, June Carter.
June – who preferred to use her stage name June N. July – just recently started singing with “Johnny” after originally working as his sound person.
“We danced for the first time a year ago today,” she said.
They do many of their performances at assisted-living facilities.
“We do this because we have fun,” June said. “We want to bring joy, especially at the older folks’ homes. Sometimes all they can do is tap their one little finger, and you know the recognition is there and their mouth is moving, and they’re not singing because they can’t, and just seeing that really moves us.”
They played a bunch of Cash’s biggest hits, but the one song that might have raised the most eyebrows was “Lumberjack,” which was written by Leon Payne in 1957 but later covered by Cash and Willie Nelson. Here are two verses from that song:
I lived on a farm out in Iowa I pulled the corn and I worked in the hay Got trapped by a girl but I wiggled free Heard the Oregon timber calling me
Well you work in the woods from morning to night You laugh and sing and you cuss and fight On Saturday night you go to Eugene And on a Sunday morning, your pockets are clean