Philip Bauer’s take on the Man in Black has him bound for tribute act glory. 


Johnny Cash tribute artist Philip Bauer walks the line every time he steps on stage.

He maintains the illusion that he is the legendary Man in Black while holding back his own, self-described goofball personality as he transforms into the sullen, brooding icon that most fans want to remember.

“When I get into character, I stay in character and I never break character,” Bauer said. “People will come up after the show and say, ‘I saw you in 1965.’ It really brings back memories for people.”

Even though he said he has always been able to mimic voices, Bauer admitted that it took countless hours of watching videos with the sound off to perfect Cash’s “quirks and ticks and things he does with his eyes and shoulders.”

As he watches the audiences that watch him, he said the work has been worth it.

“Getting them to forget I’m not him and getting them to forget they are watching an impersonator allows them to sit back and really enjoy this performer they loved,” he said. “It really pulls them in and to me. That’s the funnest part.”


Once he took to the stage of Oklahoma City’s The Centennial Rodeo Opry in Stockyards City to grand acclaim, Bauer realized he struck pay dirt.

The performance was recorded and uploaded to YouTube, and as the number of views climbed, so did the offers to perform all over the world. It was enough for him to quit his sales and marketing job and take on Cash full-time.

“His life, going from sinner to saint, changing his life, it’s really inspiring and it’s why people will never forget him,” Bauer said.

And he believes it’s a big part of why people keep coming back for more of his authentic show.

This year, he’s performing in Las Vegas, Australia and the Oklahoma State Fair. He also was selected for a live performance Tuesday at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles that will be broadcast that night as part of AXS TV’s The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands. The series features live, one-hour concerts from musicians who become icons on stage.

“There are 350 submissions a year, and they only pick eight, so I’m honored, but I’m also feeling abject fear,” Bauer said. “I guess what I’m going do is sing to the room … and I’ll just try to figure out how to ignore the boxes with the little red lights on them.”

Bauer describes his set as Johnny Cash for Dummies because it includes classic hits “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” alongside latter-day cult favorites “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and “Hurt.”

If he’s in the mood, he might also play his own personal favorite, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” which he calls a “beautiful song by Kris Kristofferson about a lonely guy with a hangover wandering the streets.”

“I hope people watch the show to see your OKC boy do good, and hopefully it’ll bring back some memories for them,” Bauer said.

Learn more about Bauer at

Print headline: Counterfeit Cash, Philip Bauer’s take on the Man in Black has him bound for tribute act glory.

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