Jack Quist pays tribute to Johnny Cash
November 17, 2010
When Jack Quist was 12, he entered a talent show contest at Olympus Jr. High. His specialty was emulating Johnny Cash.
"Instead of playing ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ which I played earlier that day, I sang ‘Cocaine Blues’ instead," Quist remembered during an interview with The Park Record. "I sang it in front of all the students, teachers and parents."
The kids went nuts and the teachers and parents got angry and started screaming at the kids to settle down.
"We took first place, because it was judged by how much applause we got," Quist said. "So I got first place, but also suspended for three days."
Quist will sing "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Cocaine Blues," among other Johnny Cash tunes, when he dons his alter ego, Jackson Cash, during his Johnny Cash tribute concert at the Egyptian Theatre Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20. The performances begin at 8 p.m.
For the past four years, Quist has performed his headlining tribute show in Branson, Mo.
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"Now the season is over and I’m back in Utah," he said. "I’m planning to be here for a while. The mother of my children my ex wife just had brain surgery. So I’m here to stay for awhile."
Quist was three when he saw Elvis Presley on the "Ed Sullivan Show."
"That’s when I knew I wanted to be an entertainer," he said. "That’s where it all started."
Quist started his first rock band when he was a 12-year-old, living in Holladay.
"It was all Elvis, Elvis and more Elvis," Quist said with a laugh. "But my parents who adopted me were big country/western fans. They begged me to quit singing that loud, ugly Rock ‘n’ Roll and wanted me to learn some pretty country music."
So, being the dutiful son, Quist learned the songs of Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Snow, with Johnny Cash always somewhere in the mix.
"I wasn’t really crazy about singing country, but the longer I did it, the more I fell in love with it," Quist said. "And I found that I could sound like just about anyone I wanted to."
After winning first place in the Olympus Jr. High talent show, his band played on the late Eugene Helsinki’s "Talent Showcase" on KSL TV.
Quist returned to Rock ‘n’ Roll for a bit, but soon discovered the outlaw music of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
"I went back to country because my voice was more geared to that style, rather than Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin," Quist said.
After trading his Les Paul guitar in for an Ovation, Quist formed Cow jazz and played throughout Midvale and Salt Lake.
He heeded the call to Nashville and released a couple of albums, but got sidelined by addiction.
"The drugs came in and I was in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous," he said. "Then and four years ago, when I realized I couldn’t go to Nashville anymore, because it’s geared for younger musicians, I saw the movie ‘Walk the Line,’ with Joaquin Phoenix."
A friend told Quist he could do a better Johnny Cash than Phoenix.
"So I got a black suit. I cut my hair and dyed it black and I moved to Branson, Mo., with $25," Quist said. "And in one year I was headlining with my Johnny Cash tribute show."
The performance is more than just playing Johnny Cash covers, he said.
"I open the show with ‘Hello, I’m Jackson Cash,’" Quist said. "It’s just like watching the ‘Johnny Cash Show’ that was on TV. But during the live concert, I tell some Johnny Cash history and of how he started out with the Tennessee Two and Tennessee Three and Sun Records. I also talk about the songs he wrote and why he wrote them."
The second half of the concert, Quist emerges as himself and plays some vintage Cow Jazz songs.
Quist still doesn’t know who his birth parents are, but he did say at least one of the Cash clan believed he was her long lost brother.
"I ended up at the Jim Bakker show by accident a few years ago," Quist said. "I went to meet Johnny’s sister Joann, and ended up singing with her."
On the program, Joann Cash "opened up a can of worms," Quist said. "She told everyone on TV that I had the Cash-family wrinkles and that her mother would like me.
"Now since I was put up for adoption at my birth a lot of people have told me they believe I’m the illegitimate son of Johnny Cash."
Regardless of who his birth-parents are, Quist said he is lucky to be where he is today.
"I’m fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I’m doing," Quist said. "I love the music. I love keeping it alive."
Jack Quist will pay tribute to Johnny Cash at the Egyptian Theatre Friday, Nov. 19, and Saturday, Nov. 20, at 8:00 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door, and $20 for cabaret seating. Visit http://www.parkcityshows.com for tickets or call 435-649-9371.