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Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
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Johnny Cash Biography

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone and spare, percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound. Cash didn't sound like Nashville, nor did he sound like honky tonk or rock & roll. He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock & roll, and the world weariness of country. Johnny Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock & roll, and his rebellious attitude and simple, direct musical attack shared a lot of similarities with rock. However, there was a deep sense of history -- as he would later illustrate with his series of historical albums -- that kept him forever tied with country. And he was one of country music's biggest stars of the '50s and '60s, scoring well over 100 hit singles. Cash was born and raised in Arkansas, moving to Dyess when he was three. By the time he was 12 years old, he had begun writing his own songs. He was inspired by the country songs he had heard on the radio. While he was in high school, he sang on the Arkansas radio station KLCN. Cash graduated from college in 1950, moving to Detroit to work in an auto factory for a brief while. 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. He began writing songs in earnest, including "Folsom Prison Blues." Cash left the Air Force in 1954, married a Texas woman named Vivian Leberto, and moved to Memphis, where he took a radio announcing course at a broadcasting school on the GI Bill. During the evenings, Johnny Cash played country music in a trio that also consisted of guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. The trio occasionally played for free on a local radio station, KWEM, and tried to secure gigs and an audition at Sun Records. Read Full Bio >>

Johnny Cash Awards

YearAwardCategoryForResult
1989 Golden Boot Awards Won
1987 Western Heritage Awards Stagecoach (1986) (TV). Won
1976 Walk of Fame Recording Won

Johnny Cash Trivia

  • Treated for Pneumonia. [November 1997]
  • Father of Rosanne Cash.
  • Is the only person besides Hank Williams to have been inducted into the Songwriters, Country Music, and Rock And Roll Halls of Fame.
  • Brother of country singer Tommy Cash.
  • Once had his truck catch on fire and burn down half of a national forest, when the judge asked him why he did it, he said, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead."
  • In the years shortly before his death, he recorded songs by other contemporary artists, including cover versions of U2's "One", Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", Richard Thompson's "Tear Stained Letter", Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down", Loudon Wainwright III's "The Man Who Couldn't Cry", Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and the song "Thirteen" written especially for him by gothic rocker Glenn Danzig.
  • Recorded entire albums live in Folsom and San Quentin Prisons, in front of highly receptive audiences of convicts.
  • His album "Bitter Tears" contains original songs told from the viewpoint of Native Americans.
  • He chose songs for a running series of compilations of songs that comprised the main themes of his work. The first three compilations are titled "Love," (mostly songs he wrote for June Carter Cash) "God," (a series of gospels) and "Murder" (perhaps his favorite subject, but one whose title he encouraged people "not to go out and do"). Released slightly later was "Life," mostly songs about hard work and economic struggling.
  • He suffered from a fear of flying and snakes.
  • Father of John Carter Cash
  • His album, "The Man Comes Around", features his rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor admitted that at first he was angry about the cover (as he wrote it from a deeply personal point of view). But when he heard the song and saw the video for the first time, said he was deeply moved and found Cash's cover beautiful and meaningful.
  • Father of Tara Cash
  • Stepfather of Carlene Carter
  • The son of poor cotton farmers, whose economic and personal struggles during the Depression (when Johnny was growing up) shaped him as a person and inspired many of his songs.
  • Son-in-law of Mother Maybelle Carter.
  • The scar to the right of his mouth was the result of a botched attempt to remove a cyst while he was serving in the Air Force in Germany.
  • Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Johnny are the only 3 musicians to have been inducted both to the Rock And Roll Hall Of
  • Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
  • The US Air Force would not accept "J.R." as a given name when he enlisted, so he became John R. Cash. He signed for Sun Records in 1955 (a year after his discharge) and had his name changed again ... to Johnny Cash
  • He was addicted to speed (usually with alcohol or morphine as a chaser) through much of his 20s until 1967, when June Carter Cash and numerous members of his friends and family staged an arduous but successful intervention. It is thought that Cash had an addiction personality which he may have inherited from his genes, as many members of his family were addicts to various vices.
  • His songwriting went from a brief process to a very long one as he aged and his health declined. He wrote the song "Big River" while on a short boat-ride across the Hudson River in the 1950s, while he spent weeks crafting "The Man Comes Around," one of the last songs he wrote.
  • Father of Cindy Cash.
  • Brother of Reba Hancock and Joanne Cash Yates.
  • Brother-in-law of Ray Liberto.
  • His size varied considerably over time. Standing 6' 2", he weighed about 200 pounds as a young man, but then his weight plummeted to an unhealthy 140 pounds when his drug addiction was at its peak in the mid-1960s. His weight increased when he kicked his habits, and he eventually became overweight, weighing about 250 pounds by his 50s.
  • Father of Kathy Cash.
  • He went through much of the 1970s on a sanctimonious cloud, having associated himself with evangelists, turned his shows into gospel performances where he encouraged people to accept Jesus Christ, and condemned blatant sexuality and violence in culture. Cash said in the 1990s that, although his faith remained as strong as ever and many of his songs expressed this, his attitudes had changes and he found his '70s overzealousness distasteful, having learned to respect that people should have their own beliefs.
  • He had long since kicked his drug habit, when, in a bizarre series of events in the early 1980s, he was attacked by a male Ostrich he had been keeping on his farm after he had threatened the huge bird. He was put onto pain killers to survive the critical injuries and quickly became an addict again. He checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, successfully quit pain killers, and made friends with Ozzy Osbourne while at the Clinic.
  • He was often at odds with his producers after he had discovered with his first producer (Sam Phillips) that his voice was better suited to a stripped-down musical style. Most famously he disagreed with Jack Clement over his sound, Clement having tried to give Cash's songs a "twangy" feel and to add strings and barbershop-quartet-style singers. His successful collaboration with Rick Rubin was in part due to Rubin seeking a minimalist sound for his songs.
  • He was friends with every U.S. President starting with Richard Nixon. He was least close with the last two, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, because of a personal distrust for both men and because of his declining health. He was probably closest with Jimmy Carter, who was actually a very close friend and distant family of his wife, June Carter Cash. None of these friendships were about politics, as he never particularly supported any administration but was just friendly with the men.
  • Backed by the "Tennessee Two": Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins. Later named: The Tennessee Three, with W.S. Fluke Holland (drums) added. After his death, Luther Perkins was replaced by Bob Wootton.
  • Step-father of Rosey Nix Adams.
  • He had assumed in his younger days that he was mainly Irish and preferred to think he was at least partially Native-American. However, upon researching his ancestry, he found he was of completely Scottish heritage. As a matter of fact, he found records of direct ancestors in Scotland who shared the name "Cash" dating back to the 16th century.
  • Although he could bear it, he disliked being defined as a "country" artist, feeling that his music wasn't really genre-defined and noting that he often stood well outside of the Nashville mainstream (particularly towards the end of his career). Technically, his music contains elements of rock 'n' roll, folk music, bluegrass, blues, and gospel as well as country-style music.
  • Cash and "American Recordings" posted a "thank you" to the Nashville country music industry in Billboard Magazine after winning the Grammy for best country record for "Unchained" in the form of the infamous photo of Johnny angrily giving the middle finger to the camera taken back in 1969 during his San Quentin prison performance. Cash did this because he was enraged by Nashville having pretty much left behind him and other aging "country" artists who had defined the genre to make room for the more pop-oriented new country artists, like Garth Brooks.
  • After the 1950s, when he wrote almost all of the songs he performed, he performed many covers. On the average album, he was the writer of about a third of the songs.
  • Is mentioned in the Danish band Nephew's single "Superliga".
  • His older brother (the sibling Johnny was closest to as a child) died in a horrible accident involving a buzz saw when Johnny was young, and it was never clear whether it was accidential, suicide, or even murder. Wracked with guilty, Johnny, by most accounts, never got over the death (it was a little-known, personal obsession of his to investigate the incident) and it is widely thought that his dark world view was shaped by it.
  • Often had sketches done about him on "Saturday Night Live". He was usually portrayed by the late Phil Hartman and, later, has been occasionally played by Darrell Hammond. Coincidentially, both funny-men were best known for playing another famous Arkansas native, Bill Clinton.
  • Member of the Highway Men with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. The foursome had recorded several albums together in the 80s & 90s
  • He was voted the 31st Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
  • When invited to perform at the White House for the first time in 1972, President Richard Nixon's office requested that he play "Okie from Muskogee" (a Merle Haggard song that negatively portrays youthful drug users and war protestors) and "Welfare Cadillac" (a Guy Drake that derides the integrity of welfare recipients). Cash refused to play either song (he found both songs, particularly the latter, morally reprehensible) and played a series of his own more left-leaning, politically-charged songs, including "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and "Man in Black."
  • During his early shows the "Tennessee Two," Cash would frequently make mocking introductions of his bandmates. He would introduce laconic guitarist Luther Perkins (who was secretly terrified of performing in public) and add either that he was in "rigor mortus" or that his pulse had been checked beforehand to make sure he was still alive. Then he would introduce bassist Marshall Grant, who would usually hop around and dance with great energy as he chewed gum at shows, as "playing the chewing gum."
  • Cash's career was at an all-time low in the 1980s and he realized his record label of nearly 30 years, Columbia, was growing to indifferent to Cash and marketing him, and to kill the relationship with the label before they did, Cash recorded "Chicken in Black." An intentionally awful song about Johnny's brain being transplanted to a chicken, it ironically turned out to be a larger commercial success than any of his other recent material. However, it wasn't long after "Chicken in Black" that Columbia and Cash parted ways.
  • He was given the name J.R. on his birth certificate, because his parents couldn't agree on a name, only on initials. He adopted John Ray as his given name when he joined the Air Force, which did not accept initials.
  • In his song "Man in Black" he explained that he wore predominately black clothing to honor and remind others of the suffering of the world's poor and oppressed.
  • Was ranked #1 of the 40 greatest men in country music.
  • Is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line (2005)
  • The video for "Hurt", from the album "The Man Comes Around" was voted greatest music video ever made accoridng to a panel assembled by the UK newspaper "The Guardian".
  • In the 1970s he tried to help his close friend, legendary Nashville guitarist Hank Garland, restart his career by bringing him into the studio to record.
  • Stated in an interview with Larry King that his favorite country singer is Dwight Yoakam.
  • The band Coldplay were supposed to record a song titled 'Til Kingdom Comes' with him for their album X&Y, but Cash died before that. They added the song as a hidden track and dedicated it to Cash. In their current "Twisted Logic Tour" they are playing this song in all the venues in addition to playing a cover of Johnny Cash's famous song 'Ring of Fire'. On the two nights(6 & 7 September 2005) at Madison Square Garden, New York they also dedicated the song 'Til Kingdom Comes' to the victims of hurricane Katrina.
  • Kingsland, Arkansas (pop. 477) is also the birthplace of Paul "Bear" Bryant, one of the greatest football coaches of all time (University of Alabama).
  • Contrary to popular belief, he never served more than one night in prison (he was held once over night in custody after being caught smuggled 1,163 amphetamines across from Mexico). He actually wrote "Folsom Prison Blues" after seeing a documentary called "Behind the Walls of Folsom Prison."


Johnny Cash Photos

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

  • Johnny Cash

    Sotheby s Johnny Cash Estate Auction

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