Like Johnny Cash, the man whose driving, hard-scrabble songs and socially aware lyrics he’s celebrated for years, Terry Lee Goffee can also boast “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
The Wellington resident and well-known area singer has been to many of the same places as the legendary Cash, the man Goffee has gained fame for honoring in a one-man tribute show over the years. But there’s one spot Goffee can now lay claim to going that the late Cash never did — inside the wildly popular video game “Guitar Hero.”
Officials of Neversoft Entertainment and Activision, makers of the upcoming “Guitar Hero 5” game invited Goffee to Los Angeles in March for a one-day shoot in which the lanky, long-haired singer mimicked Cash’s distinctive stance and upswept arm motions while a battery of cameras recorded his every move. For 2½ hours, Goffee wore a skintight, latex suit dotted by lightly colored balls. As he gyrated and lip-synched “Ring of Fire” and “Walk the Line,” two of Cash’s earliest but most enduring hits, Goffee was continually circled by gaming personnel with a hand-held camera that digitally recorded his movement from various angles. These movements were then translated to a computer-generated likeness of Cash that appears in the game, set to hit store shelves in September.
“The little Velcro balls acted as sensors,” Goffee said.
Asked how it felt to move inside such a form-fitting suit, the tall, sturdy Goffee called it a unique experience.
“It was fun, but there was no way to keep cool,” he said.
Goffee was asked to emulate Cash by Neversoft officials, who deemed Goffee the best Johnny Cash tribute artist they’d seen.
“They didn’t say whether they considered other people, but I assumed that if they were calling me the best, they must have had something to compare me to,” Goffee said.
As Goffee performed “Ring of Fire” three times, he was being recorded by 10 to 12 fixed cameras mounted on scaffolding that surrounded him.
“I had to stay inside of a taped-off area that measured about 10 by 10 feet,” he said.
Had it been a normal show, Goffee said he would have emulated the Man in Black without thinking about it.
“It comes second nature when you’re actually performing,” he said. “But they wanted certain shots, and I had to take directions, moving from here to there and looking into the camera. You become more self-conscious. There’s a tendency to overthink it.”
Adding to his temporary unease was the fact that Goffee’s motion-capture image was projected onto a wall of the warehouse-like film studio.
“It looked like a 3-D stick figure. I could see it as I moved. They take the stick figure and superimpose it over the top of the caricature. It’s far above my level of understanding,” he said with a laugh.
There was one part of Goffee’s anatomy that the latex suit clearly did not flatter. “It was real tight, like a scuba suit, in the posterior area,” Goffee said. “It was embarrassing to see that come up onscreen.”
Goffee’s movements will be married to a caricature of Cash as he would have appeared in 1963, early on in his career.
Acknowledging he didn’t make a bundle of money for the gaming gig, Goffee said he hopes the exposure gained from the “Guitar Hero” stint will lead to more paying jobs.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “I feel very flattered and honored they chose me to do this.”
Following a series of 27 shows he did in Ireland and England earlier in the year, Goffee and his wife, Kay, drove to Memphis this week, where he is to be interviewed for one in a series of Irish-produced documentaries on American country music stars including Patsy Cline and The Dixie Chicks. Goffee will perform Cash’s version of the Nine Inch Nails’ hit “Hurt” at Sun Studios, the fabled Memphis record label that launched Cash’s career, as well as the careers of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis.
After that, it’s back home for a free show during the sixth annual Terry Lee Goffee Fan Appreciation Day and Sight & Hearing Benefit at Lions Park in LaGrange on June 28. The event, 1 to 6 p.m., uses proceeds from food sales, silent auction and 50-50 raffles to benefit the Lions’ Sight and Hearing Fund and to send special-needs children to summer camp.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.