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Bowen and Cash left major legacies

Johnny Cash performed with wife June Carter Cash at the first Americana Awards Show in Nashville in 2002.
Johnny Cash performed with wife June Carter Cash at the first Americana Awards Show in Nashville in 2002.
John Russell, Associated Press

I was going through my phone list the other day and I ran across Wes Bowen's number. It prompted me to take a few minutes to reminisce.

Wes, the voice of Utah jazz music, died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 79. I first heard Wes on KUER, 90.1 FM, when he was doing his "All That Jazz" show. I met him at the first Jazz at the Hilton concert.

He kind of took me under his wing and introduced me to the world of jazz, a huge step for a college metal head.

When Gov. Mike Leavitt announced April 15, 1997 as "Wes Bowen Day," the voice of Utah's jazz, (not the Utah Jazz), announced that for once in his life he was "speechless."

A major in the British military during World War II, Wes moved to the United States in the 1950s to write for Hollywood. He made his way to Salt Lake City and landed a job with KSL Radio as a vice president of public affairs. He eventually moved on to KUER to share his love of jazz, which he discovered while a youth in England.

"I remember walking past a record store and hearing this music that I'd never heard before," Wes told me in 1997. "I stepped into the store and asked the lady who was playing this music. And she said, 'Some Yank named Count Basie. But if he's really a Yank, he can't really be a count, now can he?' "

While Wes was known for his knowlege of jazz, his real love was classical. "I have more classical albums than jazz albums in my personal collection," he said. "Bach, Stravinsky and Copland are my favorites. When it comes to jazz, I love the classics, but I think Brazillian jazz would be my choice, if I had to chose."

Rest easy, Wes. You were a great friend.

Another music man made his exit last week, Johnny Cash. The "Man in Black" was 71.

It came as no surprise. He had been in and out of the hospital these last few months. And he recently lost his wife, June Carter Cash, a couple of months ago. The Cashes were married for nearly 40 years. When June died, I figured it was only a matter of time before Johnny would join her.

Cash leaves a major legacy. In the world of music — not just country music, but music in general — Cash's name was spoken with reverence.

Everyone from Henry Rollins, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Keidis, Bob Dylan, U2, Tom Petty, Tim McGraw to John Mellencamp, George Thorogood, Bruce Springsteen and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor loved Johnny Cash.

In fact, Cash's last MTV video-music award, announced last month, was for best cinematrography for his remake of NIN's "Hurt."

Cash was a contemporary of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins at Sam Phillips' seminal Sun Records. During his career, Cash played so many prison gigs that rumors spread he actually served time. But he never did. (Although at one prison gig he played to an audience that included Merle Haggard.)

Cash recorded solo albums, gospel albums with his wife and, in 1985, formed the Highway Men with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

In the early 1990s, Cash's career had a resurgence thanks to his alliance with producer Rick Rubin and American Recordings.

Johnny and June are together again; rest easy.


E-MAIL: scott@desnews.com