“We played down in Cabo Wabo during Sammy Hagar’s birthday week in October  and have met the whole [Van Halen] band at various times, so they know what we’re doing and dig it,” says Osmon.
OU812 guitarist Angel Llanos attended a party thrown at Eddie Van Halen’s house for the X-rated film The Sacred Sin (which includes two Van Halen songs).
“There were adult film industry folks all over the place and strippers and a bevy of naked women,” according to Osmon. “Eddie was the host, playing with a band he had hired and walking around pouring wine and giving tours and bragging about his son. Meanwhile, naked women are hanging from acrobat things from the ceiling and in the pool.… His house was really nice but had the appearance of having been gutted by the divorce and never really put back together, sort of beat up, as if a drunk hermit was living there by himself.”
The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash are a country-rock band that plays Cash music, as well as releasing several CDs of their own original songs. The band first earned notice when they opened for Merle Haggard at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, after which they recorded their own six-song EP.
In 1998, the Bastards received an invitation to perform for over 20,000 attendees at Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July Picnic in Luckenbach, Texas, the first San Diego band ever invited to the three-decade-old institution showcasing cutting-edge artists in country music.
“We aren’t really a tribute band,” says front man Marc Stuart. “We’re more an ‘inspired-by’ band.” The group was officially endorsed several years ago by the Man in Black himself, Mr. Middle Finger, the late Johnny Cash.
“We were playing a club called the Exit-Inn in Nashville,” explains Stuart. “The people at the bar came up to me, all serious, and said, ‘Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, he’s here and he’s waiting to talk to you backstage.’ I’m sure some people thought he was there to try and intimidate me or something, because he’s Johnny’s real son and here we are, the Bastard Sons. I didn’t think he was there to beat me up or anything. At least I hoped not!
“So I went out back, and he couldn’t have been nicer. He told me how he and his dad had defended our band against a lot of people who had negative things to say about the name, and he said, ‘I really love the group. I’d love to record you guys the next time you’re in the area.’
“Well, a couple of months later…we were out on tour in Memphis, Tennessee, and we had a few days off. I called him up and said, ‘We’re in Memphis, we’re within trucking distance, so how’re you looking at the studio?’ He said, ‘Great, my dad’s working in there in the morning, so you guys can come in about noon and have the studio for the rest of the day.“ ‘
At a recording studio on the Cash property called the Cash Cabin, Stuart says, “We spent three days recording ‘Spanish Eyes’ and ‘Nowhere Town.’ Being right there in Johnny’s back yard was amazing. It’s about 20 miles outside of Nashville, in the middle of the woods. The studio is a little wood cabin on 50 acres. There’s wild animals all over, deer and goats and pigs, and peacocks just wandering around. They’ve even got their own fully stocked bass lake within walking distance, so John Carter and I would go out with fishing rods and catch a few big-mouth bass between takes.
“The studio itself is like a history museum, full of Cash and Carter memorabilia, but it’s also fully modern and functional for recording. I was singing into the same microphone Johnny Cash was using just a half hour before! The lyric sheets for his new songs were spread around the studio, and I got to look at those. We even got to hear some of his new tracks.
“He [Johnny Cash] called the studio from the house, but he wasn’t feeling well enough to come out, so we didn’t get the chance to meet him there. But he said the same thing as his son, that he likes our music and doesn’t mind that we’re called the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. ’Cause he made fun of that kind of thing way back when…he’s the guy who sang about ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ after all.”
The Band in Black is a more traditional Cash tribute, formed in 2003 and fronted by “Cowboy Jack” Johnson. “We dress in black and play vintage gear,” says Johnson, “like an upright bass. The lead guitarist uses a Telecaster, and I have my Martin guitar [Cash owned several Martins]. We cover the late ’50s through early ’60s, all presented based on research and authentic down to the last detail.”
The longtime San Diegan (since 1968) is also the originator and lead performer of the Hank Show, which he founded in 1999. “It’s a re-creation, not a tribute, of the music of Hank Williams Sr. We’ve been doing hits from the breadth of his career. He recorded from ’47 to ’53, and we play the songs in chronological order. The band wears vintage smile-pocket Western shirts with hats and ties, and we all play instruments accurate to that era.”
Johnson’s guitars are identical to those favored by Williams, while his bandmates use the same style hollow-body electric guitar, steel guitar, fiddle, and upright bass used by their Sr. inspirations. “My Hank suit was made for me by one of the same guys who tailored Hank’s clothes,” Johnson says. “He was one of the guys at Nudies Rodeo Tailors [who dressed ZZ Top, among others], and he made me a replica of Hank’s suit…the white suit with black musical notes.”
Fleetwood Max was formed in 2006 by Todd Hidden (as Lindsay Buckingham) and Annie Heller (ersatz Christine McVie). “Everyone seems to love Fleetwood Mac,” says Heller. “Visually, we try to emulate the look of The Dance years, which is mostly black and white. Our Stevie, Kim Enering, buys special clothing custom-made to look like Stevie Nicks’ best-known outfits, and she does a great job with the Stevie-isms.”