6 Interesting Facts About Johnny Cash
by Evan Ceretti, Feb 26, 2018 . 5 min read
One of country music’s most influential singers was born on this day – February 26, 1932. Though Johnny Cash sadly passed away in 2003, his words and music live on, continuing to have a profound affect on listeners. In his music, attitude, and larger-than-life lifestyle, Cash truly did walk the line. Today, after having sold 90 million records, Cash’s legend and fanbase continue to grow all over the world, as he soothes listeners from the grave with his calm, bass-baritone voice. Here are 6 interesting facts you may have not known about the Man In Black.
1. He wrote much more than just songs
Johnny Cash was more than a songwriter. He was a writer in the broadest sense. As a child, Cash wrote poems, and he continued to write stories as a teenager, honing his skills. Cash’s first published piece was called “Hey Porter,” which appeared in a military newspaper. In 1975 he wrote his first autobiography, Man in Black, and in 1997 he wrote his second autobiography, Cash: The Autobiography. Both were penned in longhand in notebooks. Cash was also a novelist. He published Man in White in 1986, which was a fictional account of six years in the life of the apostle Paul. Cash considered the novel to be one of his greatest achievements.
2. Cash was an ordained minister
It was no secret that Cash was deeply religious. The Man in Black was simultaneously a god-fearing Christian as well as an rebellious outlaw of sorts, which is what made him so appealing to such a wide audience. Despite his celebrated presence, he always remained a man of the people. It’s easy to see parallels between Cash and the Apostle Paul in Cash’s novel Man in White, mentioned above. In the 1960s, Cash was more well-known for his rebellious image, more than that of a holy man – he would wreck hotel rooms, drive under the influence of drugs, and have fits on stage, which were largely the result of drug abuse. In 1968, after remarrying June Carter, Cash began a lifelong reexamination of his life, where he got back in line with his Christian beliefs. In the 1970’s, after more than two years of study, Cash received a degree in theology and become an minister. He presided at his daughter’s wedding.
3. He didn’t write the hit Ring of Fire
Despite having written many hits during his career, Cash didn’t write Ring of Fire. Cash recorded the song “(Love’s) Ring of Fire” in 1963, which was a single that Anita Carter had previously released. The song was co-written by Cash’s to-be-wife, June Carter, as well as singer-songwriter Merle Kilgore. Anita Carter’s version of the song never rocked the billboards, but Cash heard it and knew there was something special about it. He added his own Mexican-themed twist on the song and released it as “Ring of Fire”, which became an immediate hit, and would later become his all-time best seller.
4. Johnny Cash is not his real name
Sam Phillips, the producer of Cash’s first records, thought that “Cash” sounded more like an invented stage name when he first met Cash. Though “Cash” is indeed a great stage name, it’s also Johnny’s real last name. “Johnny” was the made up part. Johnny grew up being J.R. Cash in Arkansas. It was only when Cash joined the Air Force in 1950 that he assigned himself a name, as the recruiter would not accept a candidate with initials for a name. In the snap of a fingers, J.R. became John R. Cash. A legend was born.
5. He was no stranger to a jail cell
Cash was no stranger to the inside of a prison. In fact, he was arrested seven times for a variety of reasons, some from drug-related charges. Despite being arrested seven times, Cash only ever spent one night in jail. The arrests never held him back, and you could say it advanced his career in many ways. Two of his best-selling albums were recorded in prison: Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968 and Johnny Cash at San Quentin in 1969. He continued to visit prisons throughout his career to play for the prisoners. Cash, having been in jail, was sympathetic towards the plight of the imprisoned.
6. His ‘desert island’ playlist would include Beethoven
It’s not an easy question to answer. The world is filled with an endless amount of great music – but, what if you were trapped on a island and only had access to one compilation album, what would you choose? Especially if it were the only thing you could listen to and it would be played endlessly? In his autobiography, Cash, Cash said he would take: Bob Dylan’s The Freeweelin’ Bob Dylan, Merle Travis’ Down Home, Jimmie Davis’s Greatest Gospel Hits, Emmylou Harris’ Roses in the Snow, Rosanne Cash’s The Wheel, a gospel album by Rosetta Tharpe, “something by Beethoven,” and You Are There by Edward R. Murrow.