Showing posts with label Rock and Roll. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rock and Roll. Show all posts

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Rockin’ House of Wax

Pasquale Ramunno and his family sculpted out a unique niche when they created the Rock Legends Wax Museum in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Galleries of the sort are not uncommon across the world, though they generally feature who’s whos of famous figures from many walks of life, rarely specializing in one field (i.e., political leaders, entertainers, sports figures).

Having branched out from a rock and roll gift shop they opened in 1983, the Ramunnos started a new venture after featuring some Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison figures in ‘97. From then on, Pasquale continually added rock icons to the pantheon. Visitors got up close and personal with Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ozzy Osbourne, John Lennon, Little Richard, KISS (of course) and so many others.

They weren’t all dead-on, but that wasn’t really the point. Art, like music itself, is interpretive and that’s precisely what Ramunno’s work conveys. Besides, where else could one find all those pop music heroes in one place? I’d take this tribute over that pretentious hall of conceit in Cleveland any day of the week.

Sadly, the museum has since closed, but some of the figures remain on display in the Rockworld store, including Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Slash and David Bowie. When in the vicinity, be sure to stop by 5020 Centre Street and feast your eyes on a rare and oddly fascinating mixture— rock and wax!

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Roadside America for the use of the photos in this story!


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Christopher Robinson

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Cash Preferred

“...Two million dollars... Last year, Johnny Cash made twice that much, singin’ about hard times.” -Bob Hope


His sound and image were inexplicable yet deceptively simple and accessible. An inimitable
brand of country music fused with blues, rock, gospel and folk invoked the raw character of working rural Americans shaped by the land, broken dreams and death itself. Perhaps it’s precisely what is missing from popular music today. Ironically, Cash’s voice and music resonate with contemporary young music fans much as they did during the latter part of the 20th Century.

Born J.R. Cash on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, “John” Cash began using the name “Johnny” only after beginning a music career in Memphis, Tennessee as a recording artist for Sam Phillips’ Sun label in 1954. Just when Elvis Presley was beginning his music career there, Cash began working with a backing group called the Tennessee Two, playing gospel and later transitioning to the trendy new ‘rockabilly’ sound, a blend of “hillbilly” rock and roll that incorporated rhythm and blues. 


Cash’s Sun hits included the classics “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line.” They featured a distinctive rhythm and beat accented by Cash’s unmistakable deep baritone. His lyrical themes were universal in nature and ranged from heartbreak and loneliness to crime, tragedy, punishment, salvation and the American spirit. If that weren’t enough, the man could also write and sing some pretty funny stuff to boot.

After leaving Phillips for Columbia Records, Cash toured extensively and honed a trademark image that saw him dressed in all-black attire. Some of his greatest-selling recordings were albums produced from free concerts given for felons within the walls of various prisons. Cash saw these inmates, like the American Indians, as examples of the forgotten and underrepresented. 

During this period Cash also began touring with June Carter of the famed Carter Family country act. The two would eventually be married in 1968.


With and without June, he scored more chart successes but concurrently developed severe issues with drugs and alcohol.

By 1969, Cash was hosting The Johnny Cash Show on ABC, videotaped at Nashville’s hallowed Ryman Auditorium. The popular music program was an influential one, showcasing not only himself but also introducing many new recording artists of the era to Cash’s audience.

Despite a troubled personal life that saw frequent addiction, abuse and run-ins with the law, Cash continually found renewal and redemption in the Almighty. He regularly performed at Billy Graham’s ‘Crusades’ and wrote a Christian novel and a screenplay which he produced on the life of Jesus in addition to his two autobiographies written in 1975 and 1997.

Though several illnesses eventually slowed down Cash’s life and career, his stardom would have a final resurgence with a back-to-basics album series known as the American Recordings which featured stark cover versions of eclectic songs by some unlikely contemporary artists.

Sadly, Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, four months after June’s passing. His musical legacy is difficult to explicate yet easily noticeable in the multitudes of musicians he played with and influenced.

Cash’s songs and the values he strove to embody would seem practically essential in our current world ripe with confusion, crisis, doubt and disillusion. Indeed, there is something unequivocally missing from the time in which we live because — up front, there ought to be a man in black.

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Christopher Robinson