Bill Forness wears a black suit, white shirt and black boots on stage. And when he opens his mouth to sing, out comes Johnny Cash.
"I just naturally sing in those lower tones," the Johnny Cash Tribute artist said in an interview last summer. And fans love it when he does.
In 2010, a man in the audience proposed to his girlfriend while Bill sang Cash's hit "Ring of Fire."
"He told me that was as close as he could get to Johnny Cash. He'd seen me a couple times and was waiting for me to come back" so he could pop the question.
"I realized it meant something to people. Something more than just a song."
Forness and his tribute band One More Round will perform Friday for a dinner show at The Falls Center in Columbia. The event is a fundraiser for the City of Columbia's one-room schools.
Forness, 39, was raised in Belleville and graduated from Belleville West in 1993.
The dark suit and hair are the only nod to looking like Cash. Bill doesn't talk like Cash on stage, or speak in the first person.
He does wield his 1957 Gibson J45 (the same type of guitar Cash played) like it's an extension of his body, reminiscent of Cash, the neck one moment up close to his face, then aiming the guitar toward the floor as his fingers work the strings. The 1950s-style backup band is an upright bass player, drummer and lead guitar.
"I try to keep it as he did," Bill said. "I talk about his life, the stories of his songs. It's a tribute to him."
At a glance
What: Johnny Cash Tribute dinner show, starring Bill Forness and One More Round
When: Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m. A dinner buffet begins at 7 and the show starts at 8.
Tickets: General admission seats are $42.50; gold-level seats (first and second rows center stage) are $75. Tickets include the show and dinner.
Reservations required: Call 618-2813255 or order online at www.SeeTheFalls.com