Johnny Cash

  • Country, folk, rockabilly singer, songwriter born J.R. Cash in Kingsland Arkansas in 1932. He died of complications from diabetes in 2003.
  • His legal name really is J.R. Cash – that is what he was named when he was born. When he enlisted into the Air Force, they would now allow initials, so he went with John R. Cash.
  • Cash’s mother taught him how to play guitar. He began playing and writing songs when he was 12 years old. In high school, he sang on a local radio program. In the Air Force, he started his first band, The Landsberg Barbarians, while stationed in Landsberg Germany. The famous scar on his cheek occurred when he had surgery to remove a cyst during his Air Force service.
  • After his Air Force service, he moved to Memphis, and he auditioned at Sun Records, hoping to get a recording contract. He sang gospel tunes, only to later learn that Sun no longer sold gospel music. Eventually, they signed him as they liked his rockabilly sound. Once he signed, he used the stage name of Johnny Cash.
  • In 1955, his first singles were released – Hey Porter and Cry! Cry! Cry!. The following year, 2 singles hit #1 on the country charts – I Walk the LIne and There You Go. As Cash had become a sensation, Sun Records released his first studio album in 1957 – Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar. This album included the hit singles that he had released in 1955 and 1956.
  • Cash would hit #1 three more times in the 50s, with Ballad of a Teenage Queen, Guess Things Happen That Way and Don’t Take Your Guns to Town. 
  • As he entered the 60s, his prolific music career blossomed. He released 16 studio albums during the decade. The music crossed several genres – country, blues, gospel, rockabilly, standards, folk and even novelty songs. Singles that hit #1 on the country chart were Ring of Fire, Understand Your Man, Folsom Prison Blues, Daddy Sang Bass and A Boy Named Sue. His highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 was A Boy Named Sue – it made it to #2.
  • He remained popular in country music during the 70s, with 9 top 10 hits.
  • In 1985, he collaborated with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, forming the supergroup named The Highwaymen. They released 3 albums over 10 years, with their first album, the self titled Highwaymen, selling over 1 million copies.
  • He had a resurgence of popularity in the 90s, as a generation rediscovered his music. Between 1994 and 2010, 6 albums were released, titled American Recordings, American II: Unchained, American III: Solitary Man, American IV: The Man Comes Around, American V: A Hundred Highways, and American VI: Ain’t No Grave. The final 2 were released after Cash’s death. These records reestablished him on the country charts, and the V edition even hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. His deteriorating health was quite evident in the vocals in the later albums. He was still recording music just prior to his death – his final songs, Like the 309 and Engine 143 were recorded 3 weeks before he died.
  • He is one of the best selling artists of all time, with over 90 million records sold. He had 54 studio albums, 9 live albums, 2 soundtrack albums, 11 gospel albums, 13 collaboration albums, and 7 Christmas albums. Over 100 compilation albums of his music have been released. He released 165 singles, 13 of which hit #1.
  • Cash won 16 Grammy awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Grammy Hall of Fame awards for Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line. He is inducted into 6 Halls of Fame, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. He was awarded a Kennedy Center Honors award in 1996, and a National Medal of Arts award in 2001.
  • He was given the nickname “The Undertaker” because he wore black clothes while performing. The world simply referred to him as The Man in Black. Cash claimed that he wore black simply because they were easier to keep looking clean during concert tours. Later, he stated that he wore black on behalf of the poor and hungry, on behalf of the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, and on behalf of those who have been betrayed by age or drugs. He also wore black to remember “the lives that could have been” for those killed in Vietnam.
  • Cash is a legend among legends – his impact in the music world cannot be overstated. Check out my May 10 AWESOME! post of his music video for the song Hurt – it is regarded by many (including me) to be one of the greatest videos of all time. So many great works by Cash! Here’s a clip with him singing Jackson with his wife June Carter Cash.

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