The Mighty Cash Cats are back and better than ever!
The truth is they never left. It was simply the pandemic that pushed pause on excellent evenings of live music such as this…
The California- based band The Mighty Cash Cats opened for the legendary American singer-songwriter Don McLean at the Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion Car Show on Saturday evening, September 18, 2021, in Ontario, California. All things considered, it was certainly a night to remember. Indeed, an event such as this could not be covered through standard journalistic means.
Regular readers know that yours truly is dominated by a particular mistress. Bound to his laptop, he rarely finds reason to venture out into the real world. So don’t expect a simple regurgitation of song lists. Prepare instead to regale in a series of recent reflections and generally enjoyable experiences.
Your shy scribe was reluctantly flying solo as his sexy sidekick and friendly photog fell victim to illness at the last moment. Still, promises were made and had to be kept. Thus, having crawled out from under his laptop and hopping into a hot shower, he was off to navigate through dire detours and strange side streets only to find himself hiking into the 22 city blocks of downtown Ontario and the world-famous Route 66 highway in search of Ontario Town Square.
The Mighty Cash Cats Take The Stage
Thanks to the assistance of a few event staff, he arrived just in time to see The internationally-renowned Mighty Cash Cats take to the stage right on time. (For those not yet in the know, the band roster features Michael J Smith (acoustic guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals), Leticia Blumette (bass and backing vocals), Oliver Thin (guitar), Larry Anderson (drums).
Having toured in the US and part of Europe and Asia, this versatile group of musicians is not only talented but professional. They love their audience, and their audience loves them.
They opened their decades-spanning, tuneful tribute to Johnny Cash with “Big River.” Despite playing a shorter set than usual, the effectively kept things fun is a concentrated set that included such hits and faves as “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring of Fire”, “Walk The Line”, and “Ghost Riders In the Sky.” The group also displayed a much-welcomed sense of humor with a couple of off-the-cuff quips about taking a wrong turn at Quebec and having to speak French.
Ever the educated entertainer, Smith also made mention of related music history including a reference to Mclean’s impact on Cash and how the man in black composed “I Wish I Could Yodel” after hearing Mclean perform “Lovesick Blues” while a guest in Cash’s home. They also included such Johnny and June duets like “Jackson”, and the Gospel tune, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, and the closing number, train song “Orange Blossom Special.” Appropriately enough, the band also performed The Carter Family’s “song of hope” titled “Keep It On The Sunny Side.” “God Bless America!”, Smith added, reminding us all that, despite current controversies, we are all Americans.
Blumette and Smith went out into the audience to literally and figuratively get in touch with their multi-ethnic, cross-generational audience. They were masked and unmasked, vaxed and waxed, locals and tourists, the curious, and the purists. babes and babies, stoners and loners, pre-teens and beauty queens, and everything in between. At a time when some say we are being divided, The Mighty Cash Cats unified them through a shared, universal love of live music.
The Journey tribute band DSB (as in “Don’t Stop Believin’”) was next on the bill as they perform regularly here in Ontario. Their accuracy to the music and ability to recreate the music of the former American rock band was also noteworthy. They covered many of the expected hits as well as the Steve Perry piece “Oh Sherrie”, and the Brit-American band Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time.” While one could not quibble about the music, it did seem as if their look lacked a unifying element. No one really cared though, as they closed their set with the expected yet no less effective number “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Last, but not certainly not least, Don McLean performed some unexpected songs such as the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman song “Little Sister”, Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, and material from his Botanical Gardens platter. Naturally, his set was truly highlighted by his hits “Vincent” and the iconic audio offering, one of the greatest songs of the 20th Century, “American Pie.”
One of McLean’s backing musicians may have joked about not being used to staying up this late anymore backstage, as McLean himself poked fun at his own age, but a message was sent nonetheless. We need to remember when rock n’ roll was born, when it matured, and whose music still rocks audiences around the world. Respect your elders, boys, and girls, because they are cooler than you might ever be.
(Special Note: If you’d like to hear more of The Mighty Cash Cats‘ music and are going to be in the area, the band will be performing their live Johnny Cash Show, with The Linda Ronstadt Experience opening, at The Sagebrush Cantina, in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, Oct 3, at 3:00 pm.)