Music: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, to Carrie Cloveree (née Rivers) and Ray Cash. He was the fourth of seven children.

Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas. He lived there from 1935 until 1950.
The property, pictured here in 2013, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo by: Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com

Cash rose to fame in the prominent country music scene in Memphis, Tennessee, after four years in the United States Air Force. Cash was known for his deep, calm bass-baritone voice, the distinctive sound of his Tennessee Three backing band characterized by train-like chugging guitar rhythms, a rebelliousness coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor, free prison concerts, and a trademark, all-black stage wardrobe, which earned him the nickname “The Man in Black”. He traditionally began his concerts by simply introducing himself, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” followed by his signature song “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Johnny Cash Promotional Photo for Sun Records, taken in 1955 – http://www.johnnycashstore.com/product1282.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Per Wiki:

Cash worked up the courage to visit the Sun Records studio, hoping to get a recording contract. He auditioned for Sam Phillips by singing mostly gospel songs, only to learn from the producer that he no longer recorded gospel music. On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley dropped in on Phillips while Carl Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks, with Jerry Lee Lewis backing him on piano. Cash was also in the studio, and the four started an impromptu jam session. Phillips left the tapes running and the recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, survived. They have since been released under the title Million Dollar Quartet. In Cash: the Autobiography, Cash wrote that he was the farthest from the microphone and sang in a higher pitch to blend in with Elvis.

Image result for million dollar quartet

Cash’s next record, “Folsom Prison Blues”, made the country top five. His “I Walk the Line” became number one on the country charts and entered the pop charts top 20. “Home of the Blues” followed, recorded in July 1957. That same year, Cash became the first Sun artist to release a long-playing album. Although he was Sun’s most consistently selling and prolific artist at that time, Cash felt constrained by his contract with the small label. Phillips did not want Cash to record gospel, and was paying him a 3% royalty rather than the standard rate of 5%. Presley had already left Sun, and Phillips was focusing most of his attention and promotion on Lewis.

In 1958, Cash left Phillips to sign a lucrative offer with Columbia Records. His single “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” became one of his biggest hits, and he recorded a collection of gospel songs for his second album for Columbia. However, Cash left behind a sufficient backlog of recordings with Sun that Phillips continued to release new singles and albums from them, featuring previously unreleased material until as late as 1964. Cash was in the unusual position of having new releases out on two labels concurrently. Sun’s 1960 release, a cover of “Oh Lonesome Me”, made it to number 13 on the C&W charts.

(When RCA Victor signed Presley, it also bought his Sun Records masters, but when Cash departed for Columbia, Phillips retained the rights to the singer’s Sun masters. Columbia eventually licensed some of these recordings for release on compilations after Cash’s death.)The Tennessee Three with Cash in 1963

In the early 1960s, Cash toured with the Carter Family, which by this time regularly included Mother Maybelle’s daughters, Anita, June, and Helen. June later recalled admiring him from afar during these tours. In the 1960s, he appeared on Pete Seeger’s short-lived television series Rainbow Quest. He also acted in, and wrote and sang the opening theme for, a 1961 film entitled Five Minutes to Live, later re-released as Door-to-door Maniac.

Johnny Cash in Five Minutes to Live (1961)
Five Minutes To Live Movie Poster
Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054817/mediaviewer/rm3538653952
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Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
09 Mar 1960, Wed  •  Page 26
By Joel Baldwin – LOOK Magazine, April 29, 1969. p.72,
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org
Johnny Cash in the driver’s seat of the “One Piece At a Time” Cadillac with Bruce Fitzpatrick standing at the far right.
Personal life

On July 18, 1951, while in Air Force training, Cash met 17-year-old Italian-American Vivian Liberto at a roller skating rink in her native San Antonio. They dated for three weeks until Cash was deployed to Germany for a three-year tour. During that time, the couple exchanged hundreds of pages of love letters. On August 7, 1954, one month after his discharge, they were married at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio. The ceremony was performed by her uncle, Vincent Liberto. They had four daughters: Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara. In 1961, Johnny moved his family to a hilltop home overlooking Casitas Springs, California, a small town south of Ojai on Highway 33. He had previously moved his parents to the area to run a small trailer park called the Johnny Cash Trailer Park. Johnny’s drinking led to several run-ins with local law enforcement. Liberto later said that she had filed for divorce in 1966 because of Cash’s severe drug and alcohol abuse, as well as constant touring, affairs with other women, and his close relationship with June Carter. Their four daughters were then raised by their mother.

Cash met singer June Carter, of the famed Carter Family while on tour, and the two became infatuated with each other. In 1968, 13 years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Cash proposed to June, during a live performance in London, Ontario. The couple married on March 1, 1968, in Franklin, Kentucky. They had one child together, John Carter Cash, born March 3, 1970. He was the only son for both Johnny and June. In addition to having his four daughters and John Carter, Cash also became step-father to Carlene and Rosie; June’s daughters from her first two marriages.

Cash and Carter continued to work, raise their child, create music, and tour together for 35 years until June’s death in May 2003. Throughout their marriage, June attempted to keep Cash off amphetamines, often taking his drugs and flushing them down the toilet. June remained with him even throughout his multiple admissions for rehabilitation treatment and years of drug abuse. After June’s death, Cash believed that his only reason for living was his music. He died four months after her.

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Nashville Banner
Nashville, Tennessee
03 Jan 1957, Thu  •  Page 27
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Shreveport, Louisiana
15 Dec 1960, Thu  •  Page 46
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Valley Times
North Hollywood, California
05 Jan 1961, Thu  •  Page 12
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Green Bay Press-Gazette
Green Bay, Wisconsin
05 Sep 1962, Wed  •  Page 21
Pamela Austin, Joby Baker, Peter Breck, Johnny Cash, Chris Crosby, George Hamilton IV, Judy Henske, Ruta Lee, Cathie Taylor, Sheb Wooley, The Brothers Four, The Gateway Trio, Eddie Brown, and Joe Gilbert in Hootenanny Hoot (1963)

Hootenanny Hoot (1963)
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Ventura County Star-Free Press
Ventura, California
09 May 1964, Sat  •  Page 24
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The Journal News
White Plains, New York
23 Jun 1965, Wed  •  Page 45
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The Vancouver Sun
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
30 Jun 1966, Thu  •  Page 80
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Grand Prairie Daily News
Grand Prairie, Texas
29 Aug 1967, Tue  •  Page 46
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The Guardian
London, Greater London, England
12 Nov 1968, Tue  •  Page 6
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Calgary Herald
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
14 Jun 1969, Sat  •  Page 55
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The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles, California
30 Aug 1970, Sun  •  Page 453
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Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York
04 May 1971, Tue  •  Page 6
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Abilene Reporter-News
Abilene, Texas
20 Feb 1972, Sun  •  Page 14
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The Times Standard
Eureka, California
01 Apr 1973, Sun  •  Page 33
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The Charlotte News
Charlotte, North Carolina
14 Feb 1973, Wed  •  Page 7
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The Record
Hackensack, New Jersey
27 Aug 1974, Tue  •  Page 22
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News-Journal
Mansfield, Ohio
22 Nov 1974, Fri  •  Page 34
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The Daily Advertiser
Lafayette, Louisiana
02 Oct 1974, Wed  •  Page 23
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The Jackson Sun
Jackson, Tennessee
21 Dec 1975, Sun  •  Page 20
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Quad-City Times
Davenport, Iowa
20 Nov 1976, Sat  •  Page 11
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Des Moines Tribune
Des Moines, Iowa
13 Oct 1977, Thu  •  Page 54
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The Morning News
Wilmington, Delaware
07 May 1978, Sun  •  Page 91
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The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Quebec, Canada
25 Aug 1979, Sat  •  Page 21
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News-Journal
Mansfield, Ohio
08 May 1980, Thu  •  Page 34
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The South Bend Tribune
South Bend, Indiana
20 Sep 1981, Sun  •  Page 45
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The Jackson Sun
Jackson, Tennessee
11 Mar 1982, Thu  •  Page 29
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Spokane Chronicle
Spokane, Washington
17 Jan 1983, Mon  •  Page 12
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The Star-Democrat
Easton, Maryland
22 Nov 1984, Thu  •  Page 10
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis, Missouri
12 Sep 1985, Thu  •  Page 34
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The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
17 Aug 1986, Sun  •  Page 114

Obits

Obituary for June Carter (Aged 73) -
Statesman Journal
Salem, Oregon
17 May 2003, Sat  •  Page 26
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Chillicothe Gazette
Chillicothe, Ohio
17 May 2003, Sat  •  Page 5
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The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
13 Sep 2003, Sat  •  Page 26
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The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
13 Sep 2003, Sat  •  Page A26
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The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
13 Sep 2003, Sat  •  Page A26

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