By Emma Bowen Meyer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON – Shannon Persinger was an established singer, but not a Patsy Cline fan. Shade Jonze didn’t begin singing professionally until age 53, but has been enthralled with Johnny Cash all his life. When the two met, they began a Cash ‘n Cline tribute show that has lasted six seasons and often sells out theaters.
“As I learned about him, I discovered he was a person of character,” said Jonze, who has opened for country singer and Grammy Award winner Travis Tritt. “He didn’t hide his weaknesses, he prayed for forgiveness and was always honest about it.”
Although Jonze loves the music of Johnny Cash, he is much more taken with the man.
“We all have trials and tribulations and we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other,” he said. “That’s what (Cash) did. I’m really not a music fan; I’m a Johnny Cash fan. I don’t want people to forget him. He was a great man.”
During the show, Jonze and Persinger provide background information about songs, when they were written and when they were first performed. Rather than sticking with one particular era, they cover the music of his entire career.
“His career was long – nobody’s career is that long, not even the Beatles,” said Jonze, also vice-president of advertising for the Fort Wayne newspapers. “He recorded songs from 1955 to 2003 and they were well-received songs.”
Persinger, however, was not a Cash or Cline fan before meeting Jonze. When he was looking for a singing partner, a mutual friend introduced them.
“My voice is similar to Patsy Cline’s, but I really like 80’s music,” said Persinger, who was a member of the bands The Posse and The Answer Band. “It took some convincing because I thought their music was kind of depressing. But I started listening to it and decided it wasn’t too bad. Then I started singing it – and I liked that.”
She researched Patsy Cline and discovered a connection.
“No one can sing about a broken heart as well as she can,” she added.
After recording together, the duo ventured out to the stage. The show was so popular that they continued to play various venues.
“People kept coming up after the show and asking when the next one was,” said Persinger, who has sung jazz on her own since 2005. “I am very high energy and he is more subdued. We are so very different that it makes a good dynamic. The show really took off.”
Not only did the singers see the expected crowd of baby boomers, but more unlikely fans as well.
“The goth crowd likes Johnny Cash because he was an outcast,” said Jonze. “They see him as a fighter who didn’t let anyone else tell him who he was.”
This season marks a special anniversary for the show, as Cash passed away 10 years ago and Cline passed away 50 years ago.
“I have been pleasantly overtaken by the success of the show,” said Jonze. “You don’t often find things in life that consume you. He consumes me. I care about the legend and about who he was.”
If you go . . .
What: Johnny Cash ‘N Patsy Cline
Where: Paramount Theatre
When: September 14 at &7:00 p.m.