TULSA, Okla. — You know you’ve had a successful musical career when Johnny Cash mentions your name, which is what happened to John Mellencamp when Cash described him as “arguably the most important roots rocker of his generation.”
Roots rocker. There’s no doubt that Mellencamp struck a chord with what he calls his “raw Appalachian” music — essentially stripped-down rock with accordions, fiddles and hammer dulcimers added to the mix. It has definitely given the Indiana native a sound all his own.
“I just think if the song’s good, sing it,” the 67-year-old Mellencamp said. “I don’t care who’s doing it. I don’t care if it’s a country act. I don’t care if it’s a rock act. If the song’s good, sing it.”
Just four days after playing Stifel Theatre on Tuesday, Mellencamp will play at Tulsa’s Brady Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Though his musical career began in 1976, it was with his fifth album, “American Fool,” that garnered Mellencamp his first true hits: “Hurts So Good” and the No. 1 single, “Jack & Diane.” More albums and hits would follow throughout the 1980s — “Crumbling Down,” “The Authority Song,” “Small Town,” “Rain On The Scarecrow,” “Lonely Ol Night,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Paper in Fire,” “Check It Out,” “Cherry Bomb,” “Pop Singer” and “Jackie Brown.” Not even a 1994 heart attack has slowed down this award-winning musician. By 2008, Mellencamp was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Ticket prices range from $188 to $264.
Where’s the cougar?
For years, John had “Cougar” as part of his stage name. That is no longer the case. He obtained the nickname in 1974 or 1975, when his manager insisted the German name Mellencamp was too hard to market. John Cougar had a much nicer ring to it.
“I went to New York, and everybody said, ‘You sound like a hillbilly.’ ... I was totally unaware of (the name) until it showed up on the album jacket. When I objected to it, (the manager said), ‘Well, either you’re going to go for it or we’re not going to put the record out.’ So that was what I had to do. But I thought the name was pretty silly.”