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Johnny Cash

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Johnny Cash
Photo by Gai Terrell/Redferns

I can’t think of anyone apart from Elvis who has had such an influence and hold on musical culture for over 40 years, the singer became an imposing and influential figure. Johnny Cash didn’t sound like county music from Nashville, nor did he sound like a rock & roll singer. He created his own subgenre, halfway between folk, rock & roll, and the world-weariness of country.

Born in the town of Kingsland, Cleveland County, Arkansas, to Ray Cash, a farmer, and Carrie Rivers Cash, who at the height of the Depression, took advantage of a new farming program, an experiment in American Socialism created by Roosevelt’s new administration. With no money down, the Cash family was given 20 acres of fertile bottom land and a five-room house in Dyess Colony, in the northeast part of the state.

At the age of 12 Cash began writing his own songs inspired by the country songs he heard on the radio. He graduated from high school in 1950, moving to Detroit to work in an auto factory and then with the outbreak of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Air Force. While he was in the Air Force, Cash bought his first guitar and taught himself to play.

When Elvis Presley’s debut single was released on Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, Cash eager to get into music moved to Memphis, taking a job at the local Chevrolet dealership, near Sun Studios on Union Avenue.

It was while working here, Cash was introduced to Luther Monroe Perkins and Marshall Grant who were guitar pickers who, with steel guitarist A.W. ‘Red’ Kernodle had the group The Tennessee Three. Cash started to rehearse gospel songs with them and soon found themselves playing at local parties and church socials – all dressed in black.

This was 1957 and Cash also made his Grand Ole Opry debut that year, again appearing all in black where the other performers were decked out in flamboyant, rhinestone-studded outfits. Eventually, he earned the nickname of “The Man in Black.”

As his career was taking off in the late 1950s, Cash started drinking heavily and became addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates. Cash used the uppers to stay awake during tours. Friends joked about his “nervousness” and erratic behavior, many ignoring the warning signs of his worsening drug addiction.

His signature songs include “I Walk The Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring Of Fire”, and “Man in Black”. He also recorded humorous numbers, including “One Piece At A Time” and “A Boy Named Sue”; a duet with his future wife, June Carter, called “Jackson”, (which won them a Grammy award), as well as railroad songs including “Hey, Porter” and “Rock Island Line”.

From 1969 to 1971, Cash starred in his own television show, The Johnny Cash Show, on the ABC network. In this prime-time show, Cash enjoyed booking contemporary performers as guests; Neil Young, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition (who appeared a record four times on his show), James Taylor, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan all appeared.

In the 80’s Cash appeared in a number of television films including The Pride of Jesse Hallam and Murder in Coweta County. The singer, never taking himself to seriously also appeared as a “very special guest star” in an episode of the Muppet Show.

His career was rejuvenated in the 1990s, leading to popularity with an audience not traditionally interested in country music. In 1993, he sang “The Wanderer” on U2’s album Zooropa and later was offered a contract with producer Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label, better known for rap and hard rock.

Under Rubin’s supervision, he recorded American Recordings (1994) in his living room, accompanied only by his Martin dreadnought guitar – one of many Cash played throughout his career. The album which featured covers of contemporary artists won Cash another Grammy.

Health problems plagued Cash throughout the ’90s and into the 2000s, but he continued to record with Rick Rubin; their fourth collaboration, American IV: The Man Comes Around, was released in late 2002.

If you’ve never heard these albums, I strongly recommend you do. The choice of songs, the production and that voice of Johnny Cash is like nothing else.

The following year, the Mark Romanek-directed video for his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” garnered considerable acclaim and media attention, culminating in an unexpected nomination for video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards. Everyone knew that Johnny wouldn’t be around for much longer and to see that video at the time was such a moving experience – as it remains today. Watching Cash sing “What have I become? My sweetest friend, everyone I know, goes away in the end”, brings you close to tears.

He was one of country music’s biggest stars of the ’50s and ’60s, In total, he wrote over 1,000 songs, scoring well over 100 hit singles. No other artist has touched the world of music quite like Johnny Cash. He is the only person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame AND The Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame. The image of ‘The Man In Black’ is as deeply American as the stars and stripes themselves.

Important Dates In The Life Of Johnny Cash:

On this day in music
22 Jun 2019
American drummer and record producer Jerry Carrigan died age 75. He first achieved widespread recognition by being part of the first wave of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and later as a first-call session musician in Nashville for over three decades. He recorded with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Kenny Rogers Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Stevens and Dolly Parton.
13 Jun 2018
Legendary Elvis Presley drummer D.J. Fontana died peacefully at his home age 87. Before joining guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black in Presley's backing band the Blue Moon Boys, Dominic Joseph Fontana worked as the house drummer for his hometown of Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride working with the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Steve Young, Melba Montgomery, Norma Jean, Vassar Clements, Carl Butler and other country artists.
9 Apr 2017
American guitarist Bob Wootton died age 75. He joined Johnny Cash's backing band, the Tennessee Three, after original lead guitarist Luther Perkins, died in a house fire. He was Cash's guitarist for nearly thirty years.
22 Nov 2016
The Hendersonville, Tennessee property where Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash lived for most of their thirty five years of marriage was put up for sale by the current owner. The house was destroyed in a fire in 2007, but a one-bedroom apartment building, a tennis court, a swimming pool and a covered boat dock remained standing. The couple made their home there until their deaths in 2003.
30 Oct 2016
American songwriter Curly Putman died aged 85. He wrote 'Green, Green Grass of Home' which was covered by many artists including: Elvis Presley, Johnny Darrell, Gram Parsons, Joan Baez, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Merle Haggard, Joe Tex and Tom Jones. He also co-wrote (with Bobby Braddock), 'D-I-V-O-R-C-E' made famous by Tammy Wynette.
17 May 2016
American Texas country and folk singer, songwriter Guy Clark died in Nashville following a lengthy battle with lymphoma. He wrote songs for Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett and many other artists.
5 Feb 2016
A new species of black tarantula that lives near Folsom Prison, California, was named after Johnny Cash. Aphonopelma johnnycashi was among 14 new tarantula species from the southern US which were described by biologists in the journal ZooKeys.
29 Jan 2015
American poet, singer-songwriter, and actor Rod McKuen died aged 81. McKuen's translations and adaptations of the songs of Jacques Brel were instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world. McKuen's songs sold over 100 million recordings worldwide. His songs have been performed by such diverse artists as Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Petula Clark, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra.
27 Oct 2014
The Pet Shop Boys' 'Always On My Mind' was voted the top cover version of all time in a BBC Music vote. The song, written by John Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson, was first made famous by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley in 1972. Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt' came in second place, followed by The Stranglers' version of Dionne Warwick's 'Walk On By'. Jimi Hendrix's take on Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' came fourth and Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' completed the top five.
30 May 2013
A new museum dedicated to the life of Johnny Cash staged its official opening. The museum in Nashville, Tennessee, was set up by wife and husband team Shannon and Bill Miller and features the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world.
25 Nov 2011
Don DeVito, a longtime Columbia Records executive who produced the key Bob Dylan albums Blood on the Tracks and Desire died aged 72 after a 16-year battle with prostate cancer. DeVito had also worked with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Aerosmith. DeVito started off as a guitarist touring for Al Kooper, and had his own band, The Sabres, which later broke up mid-tour. According to Columbia, DeVito was stranded in Fort Smith, Ark., when he happened to meet Johnny Cash and developed what would become a lifelong friendship; Cash would later introduce DeVito to Dylan.
7 Aug 2011
Marshall Grant, who played bass for Johnny Cash in the Tennessee Two, from 1954 to 1980, passed away at the age of 83. After his time with The Man In Black, Grant managed The Statler Brothers until they retired in 2002 and later wrote an autobiography entitled "I Was There When It Happened".
13 May 2011
'Like A Rolling Stone' was voted as Bob Dylan's best-ever song by Rolling Stone Magazine, who had asked the opinions of a panel of writers, academics and musicians to compile a poll to mark Dylan's 70th birthday on 24th May. 'Like A Rolling Stone', was described by U2's Bono as 'a black eye of a pop song', while Mick Jagger praised the simplicity of 'Desolation Row'. Keith Richards argued that the original 1963 solo version of 'Girl From The North Country', ranked 30th, was superior to Dylan's 1969 duet of the same song with Johnny Cash.
21 Aug 2008
Drummer Buddy Harman died of congestive heart failure, aged 79. Worked with Elvis Presley (‘Little Sister’), Patsy Cline (‘Crazy’), Roy Orbison (‘Pretty Woman’), Johnny Cash (‘Ring Of Fire’), Tammy Wynette (‘Stand By Your Man’). Harman was the first house drummer for The Grand Ole Opry and can be heard on over 18,000 recordings.
20 Aug 2008
The daughter of late country star Johnny Cash called the use of her father's name to endorse a US presidential candidate ‘appalling’. Country star John Rich implied Mr Cash would have backed Republican hopeful John McCain while appearing at a rally in Florida, according to media reports. Writing on her website, Roseanne Cash called the remarks ‘presumptuous’. ‘Even I would not presume to say publicly what I 'know' he thought or felt,’ she added.
29 Oct 2007
Walk the Line, the film about the life of singer Johnny Cash was voted the greatest music biopic in a poll. The film starred Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Cash and his wife June Carter as the country stars and won the actress an Oscar in 2006. It was followed by rapper Eminem's 8 Mile, with Mozart's life story Amadeus next and Ray, starring Jamie Foxx as musician Ray Charles, at number four. The most recent film in the top 10 was Joy Division biopic Control.
10 Apr 2007
The former home of Johnny Cash burnt to the ground. Cash and his wife June Carter used the base in Tennessee to write many of their songs, and to entertain fans and US presidents. Part of Cash's famous late-period video 'Hurt' was shot inside the house, 20 miles north-east of country music capital Nashville. After the couple's deaths in 2003, the home in Henderson was bought by Bee Gee Barry Gibb who was preparing to refurbish the property when fire struck - within a few hours, only the stone chimneys remained of the building.
17 Sep 2006
American guitarist Al Casey died aged 69. Casey is noted for his work as a session musician and as a member of the Wrecking Crew and worked with The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, The Association, The Monkees, Johnny Cash, Simon And Garfunkel, 5th Dimension, Harry Nilsson, The Partridge Family, Frank Sinatra, and Nancy Sinatra.
22 Jul 2006
Johnny Cash was at No.1 on the US album chart with ‘American V: A Hundred Highways.’ Released posthumously on July 4, the vocal parts were recorded before Cash's death, but the instruments were not recorded until 2005.
4 Jan 2006
The house where Johnny Cash lived for 35 years was bought by Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb. The rustic house near Nashville, Tennessee went on the market in June 2005 with an asking price of $2.9m (£1.7m). Gibb said he planned to preserve the house to honour the Cash memory. Unfortunately Gibb's ownership of the house was short-lived. In April 2007, the house burned to the ground. Gibb was having the house renovated when a flammable spray sealer caused fire to break out during construction.
19 Feb 2004
Johnny Cash's family blocked an attempt by advertisers to use his hit song 'Ring of Fire' to promote haemorrhoid-relief products. The idea is said to have been backed by Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote the song with Cash's wife, June Carter Cash. Cash's daughter Rosanne said the family "would never allow the song to be demeaned like that."
25 Oct 2003
Johnny Cash's step-daughter, Rosey Nix Adams and her fiddle player Jimmy Campbell were found dead on their tour bus in Clarksville, Tennessee from Carbon monoxide poisoning. Heaters that had been left on were blamed for the accident.
12 Sep 2003
US singer songwriter Johnny Cash died of respiratory failure aged 71. One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, known as "The Man in Black." He traditionally started his concerts by saying, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." Had the 1969 US No.2 & UK No.4 single 'A Boy Named Sue', plus 11 other US Top 40 singles. Cash also had his own US TV show in late 60s early 70s.
30 Jul 2003
Sam Phillips the founder of Sun Records and studio died of respiratory failure at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. In the 1940s, Phillips worked as a DJ for Muscle Shoals, Alabama radio station WLAY. Phillips recorded what some consider to be the first rock and roll record, ‘Rocket 88’ by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats in 1951. He discovered Elvis Presley, worked with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Ike Turner, B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis.
24 Jul 2003
Johnny Cash picked up six nominations in the MTV Video Music Awards for his remake of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt' from his album, American IV: The Man Comes Around. The video, featuring images from Cash's life and directed by Mark Romanek, was also named the best video of the year by the Grammy Awards and CMA Awards, and the best video of all time by NME.
5 Jul 2003
Johnny Cash made his last ever live performance when he appeared at the Carter Ranch. Before singing "Ring of Fire", Cash read a statement about his late wife that he had written shortly before taking the stage: "The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has." Cash died on Sept 12th of this year.
15 May 2003
Country singer June Carter Cash, the second wife of Johnny Cash died in Nashville, Tennessee, of complications following heart valve replacement surgery, aged 73. She was a member of the Carter Family, and had hits with Johnny Cash, including the Grammy Award winning songs, 'Jackson', 'Ring Of Fire', (which she co-wrote about their courtship), and 'If I Were A Carpenter.'
23 Feb 2003
Howie Epstein bassist with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers died of a suspected drug overdose in New Mexico. He had replaced The Heartbreakers original bassist Ron Blair, Epstein also worked with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Linda Ronstadt and Del Shannon.
13 Feb 2002
American country singer, songwriter Waylon Jennings died in his sleep after a lengthy fight with diabetes. He was bassist for Buddy Holly following the break-up of The Crickets. Released a series of duet albums with Willie Nelson in the late 1970s. Scored the 1980 US No.21 single 'Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard', he was also the narrator on the television series. Member of The Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.
3 Dec 2001
American session guitarist Grady Martin died aged 72. He was a member of the legendary Nashville A-Team, playing guitar on hits ranging from Roy Orbison's ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’, Marty Robbins' ‘El Paso’ and Loretta Lynn's ‘Coal Miner's Daughter’. During a 50-year career, Martin backed such names as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Joan Baez and J. J. Cale.
22 Feb 2001
Winners at the 43rd Grammy Awards included U2, record of the year and song of the year with 'Beautiful Day', Steely Dan won album of the year for 'Two Against Nature', Macy Gray won Female pop vocal for 'I Try', Sting won Male pop vocal for 'She Walks This Earth', Eminem won Best Rap album from 'The Marshall Mathers LP', Johnny Cash won Best Male country performance for 'Solitary Man', and Shelby Lynne won best new artist award.
20 Jul 2000
The Evergreen Ballroom in Lacey, Washington was destroyed by a fire. During the ballroom's heyday in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many of music's greats played there: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner and Fats Domino. Glen Campbell had lived in the kitchen at the venue for a while before he became famous.
10 May 1999
American singer, songwriter poet, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children's books Shel Silverstein died of a heart attack aged 57. Wrote, 'A Boy Named Sue' for Johnny Cash (which Silverstein won a Grammy for in 1970) and many songs for Dr Hook including 'Sylvia's Mother' and 'The Cover of the Rolling Stone.'
6 Apr 1999
An all star tribute to singer, songwriter Johnny Cash took place in New York City with Sheryl Crow, Chris Isaak and U2 all performing for the TV special.
25 Feb 1998
Johnny Cash's album, Unchained, won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album. The album had been a critical success but was largely ignored by mainstream country radio, a fact Cash and producer Rick Rubin picked up on when they purchase a full-page advertisement in Billboard magazine. The ad, which appeared in March, featured a young Cash displaying his middle finger and sarcastically "thanking" radio for supporting the album!
19 Jan 1998
American singer, songwriter Carl Perkins died aged 65 from throat cancer. He wrote the classic rock & roll song 'Blue Suede Shoes', the first record on the Sun label to sell a million copies. His songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, The Beatles Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash.  Paul McCartney claimed that "if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles."
25 Oct 1997
After falling over on stage when reaching for a guitar pick, Johnny Cash announced during a gig in Michigan that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease.
4 Nov 1991
Bobby "Blue" Bland, Booker T. & The M.G.s, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Isley Brothers, Sam & Dave and The Yardbirds were all elected to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
22 Oct 1989
English folk singer, songwriter, poet, and record producer Ewan MacColl died aged 74. He wrote 'Dirty Old Town' and 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face', (became a No.1 hit for Roberta Flack in 1972). Acts including Planxty, The Dubliners, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded his songs. He was the father of singer, songwriter Kirsty MacColl.
22 Sep 1985
The first Farm Aid benefit concert was held before a crowd of 80,000 people at the Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. Organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, the event had been spurred on by Bob Dylan's comments at Live Aid earlier in that year that he hoped some of the money would help American farmers. The star studded line-up of country stars included: Alabama, Hoyt Axton, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels Band, John Denver, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers.
5 Jul 1982
Sun records musical director Bill Justis died of cancer aged 55. He worked with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, worked with also worked with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis. Had the 1957 US No. 2 single 'Raunchy' (the first Rock and Roll instrumental hit). Also had a No.1 hit in Australia in 1963 with ‘Tamoure.’
29 Dec 1980
American singer, songwriter Tim Hardin died of a heroin overdose. Hardin wrote the songs 'If I Were A Carpenter' (covered by Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash and June Carter, The Four Tops, Leon Russell, Small Faces, Robert Plant and Bob Seger,) and 'Reason To Believe', (covered by Rod Stewart). Hardin appeared at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
18 Aug 1979
British singer, songwriter, producer Nick Lowe married Johnny Cash's stepdaughter Carlene Carter in Los Angeles. The couple are now divorced.
17 Feb 1971
James Taylor made his TV debut on The Johnny Cash Show. Other guests included Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt and Tony Joe White.
8 Jul 1970
The Everly Brothers Show, started an eleven-week prime time slot on ABC- TV in the US. It began as a summer replacement in 1970 for The Johnny Cash Show.
18 Apr 1970
Johnny Cash was at No.1 on the Country album chart with Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, his 33rd album release. The album featured 'If I Were a Carpenter', the famous duet with his wife, June Carter Cash, which earned the couple a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1971.
17 Apr 1970
While performing at the White House at the invitation of President Richard Nixon, Johnny Cash was asked to perform 'Okie From Muskogee'. Cash declined because it was not his song, but had been a hit for Merle Haggard. Instead, Cash sang his No.1 hit, 'A Boy Named Sue'.
23 Aug 1969
Johnny Cash started a four-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with 'Johnny Cash At San Quentin'. The album was a recording of a live concert given to the inmates of San Quentin State Prison and was the follow-up to Cash's previous live album, the critically acclaimed and commercially successful At Folsom Prison.
26 Jul 1969
Johnny Cash released the single, 'A Boy Named Sue', a song written by Shel Silverstein. Cash was at the height of his popularity when he recorded the song live at California's San Quentin State Prison at a concert on February 24, 1969. The song tells the tale of a young man's quest for revenge on a father who abandoned him at 3 years of age and whose only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue.
19 Jul 1969
Special guests on this week's Johnny Cash ABC television music variety show included, Ed Ames, Roy Clark, The Monkees and Joni Mitchell. Cash introduced The Monkees by playing the first verse of their hit 'Last Train To Clarksville' with The Monkees on backing vocals, The Monkees then performed a version of the Johnny Cash song 'Everybody Loves a Nut', with Cash.
7 Jun 1969
Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell both appeared on the first ABC TV Johnny Cash Show from Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Dylan sang I Threw It All Away and Living The Blues and duetted with Johnny Cash on Girl From The North Country.
4 Jun 1969
Johnny Cash released At San Quentin, his 31st overall album and a recording of a live concert given by Cash to the inmates of San Quentin State Prison. The album was a follow-up to Cash's previous live album, the critically acclaimed and commercially successful At Folsom Prison.
1 May 1969
Bob Dylan recorded an appearance for The Johnny Cash Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. After two solo numbers from Dylan, Johnny Cash joined him for a rendition of 'Girl From The North Country'. In this primetime show, Cash enjoyed booking contemporary performers as guests; Neil Young, James Taylor, Ray Charles and Eric Clapton were all booked to appear on forthcoming shows.
9 Apr 1969
Bob Dylan released his ninth studio album Nashville Skyline, which embraced country music. With liner notes by Johnny Cash, (who also appeared on the record), at the time of release it was dismissed by some critics as lightweight, but included 'Lay, Lady, Lay', a major hit single for Dylan. The album also gave Dylan his fourth UK No.1 album.
17 Feb 1969
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded 'Girl From The North Country' together in Nashville at CBS Studios. The track appeared on Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline' album.
5 Aug 1968
American country guitarist Luther Perkins died at the age of 40 as a result of severe burns and smoke inhalation. Perkins fell asleep at home in his den with a cigarette in his hand. He was dragged from the fire unconscious with severe second and third degree burns. Perkins never regained consciousness. He worked with Johnny Cash and The Carter Family and featured on the live album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.
13 Jan 1968
Johnny Cash played a show, which was recorded, for his forthcoming live album at Folsom Prison, near Sacramento, California in front of 2,000 inmates. When released, the lead single, 'Folsom Prison Blues' (an update of his 1956 hit) became one of the most famous recordings of his career.
5 Oct 1965
Johnny Cash was arrested crossing the Mexican border into El Paso, Texas after customs officials found 100's of pills in his guitar case. He received a suspended jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.
11 Jan 1964
Ring Of Fire The Best of Johnny Cash became the first No.1 album when Billboard debuted their Country Album Chart. It was his sixteenth album in total and the first compilations album by Cash.
25 Mar 1963
Johnny Cash recorded the June Carter/Merle Kilgore song 'Ring Of Fire.' The song was originally recorded by June's sister Anita Carter, on her 1963 album Folk Songs Old and New as '(Love's) Ring of Fire'. Cash claimed he had a dream where he heard the song accompanied by 'Mexican trumpets'. It became the biggest hit of Johnny Cash's career, staying at No.1 on the US charts for seven weeks.
1 Jan 1959
Johnny Cash played a free concert for the inmates of San Quentin Prison, California. One of the audience members was 19 year-old Merle Haggard, who was in the midst of a 15 year sentence (he served three years) for grand theft auto and armed robbery.
26 Nov 1958
Johnny Cash made his debut on the US country chart when ‘Cry! Cry! Cry!’ made it to number 14. His next seven singles would all make the country top 10, with ‘I Walk the Line’ and ‘There You Go’ both hitting number 1.
9 Jul 1958
Johnny Cash signed with Columbia Records, where he would remain for the next 30 years releasing over 60 albums.
4 Dec 1956
The so-called 'Million Dollar Quartet' impromptu jam session took place at Sun Studios in Memphis with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
29 Jul 1956
Carl Perkins was on the UK singles chart with his debut UK hit 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Johnny Cash planted the seed for the song in the fall of 1955, while Perkins, Cash, Elvis Presley toured throughout the South. Cash told Perkins of a black airman whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany. He had referred to his military regulation air shoes as "blue suede shoes." Cash suggested that Carl write a song about the shoes.
1 May 1956
Johnny Cash released his classic song, 'I Walk the Line', which became his first No.1 Billboard country hit and remained on the charts for over 43 weeks, selling over 2 million copies. The unique chord progression for the song was inspired by backwards playback of guitar runs on Cash's tape recorder while he was in the Air Force stationed in Germany.
12 Feb 1956
Dean Martin was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'Memories Are Made Of This'. The American actor, comedian, singer and TV hosts biggest hit. Also covered by The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra and The Driffters.
30 Jan 1956
Elvis Presley started recording what would be his first album at RCA's New York Studios. Songs recorded included his version the Carl Perkins song 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Johnny Cash planted the seed for the song in the fall of 1955, while Perkins, Cash, Elvis Presley, and other Louisiana Hayride acts toured throughout the South. Cash told Perkins of a black airman, C. V. White, whom he had met when serving in the military in Germany, who had referred to his military regulation airmens shoes as "blue suede shoes."
11 Oct 1955
Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash kicked off an eleven date tour of the Southern US states in Abilene, Texas.
30 Jul 1955
Johnny Cash recorded his first version of 'Folsom Prison Blues' at the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Cash was inspired to write this song after seeing the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) while serving in West Germany in the United States Air Force at Landsberg, Bavaria (itself the location of a famous prison).
9 Sep 1954
Elvis Presley played at the opening of the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center in Memphis Tennessee. Johnny Cash was in the audience and after the show met Elvis for the first time.
7 Aug 1954
Johnny Cash married Vivian Liberto at St Ann's Catholic Church in Memphis. Cash had plans of becoming a Memphis appliance salesman, he instead formed a band with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, and was signed to Sun Records a year later.
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