Monday, September 16, 2013

Remembering Johnny Cash February 26, 1932 - September 12, 2003

"The Man in Black" was born in Kingsland, Arkansas to poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers.  Johnny Cash was one of seven children.  When Johnny was 3, his family moved to Dyess, Arkansas to take advantage of a farming program proposed by President Roosevelt.  For several years, J.R. (as he was called as a child), worked the cotton fields alongside of his parents, brothers and sisters.  Although the Cash family's life was full of hardships, they escaped through their difficulties through music.  His mom would often play the guitar and sing ballads and folk songs to the working people in the fields.  She passed on her love for music to Johnny who began to play the guitar at the age of 12.  His mom saved her money to pay for singing lessons for Johnny.  After three lessons, his teacher saw a natural talent in Johnny and instructed him not to change a thing in his voice and she was taken in by his unique sound.

After graduating from high school, Johnny moved to Pontiac, Michigan and took a job in an automobile manufacturing plant.  His job was sweeping the floor.  He soon quit the job to join the U.S. Air Force and took his basic training in Texas.  His military job was in Germany and was intercepting conversations on the radio and eavesdropping on the Soviet Union.   He soon married and had four daughters.  It was in Germany, when he began to explore his future in music.  He and some military friends formed a group called the "Landsberg Barbarians" and performed live shows.  It was in Germany that Cash wrote "Folsom Prison Blues"

When his military career ended, Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee and worked as an appliance salesman.  He teamed up with some friends to play music.  Johnny was the front man and the group was known as the "Tennessee Three"  The group played a combination of blues and country western music known as "rockabilly" by the recording industry.  They contacted Sam Phillips (the legendary recording guru) who made Elvis Presley. They played known hits for Phillips and he suggested they work on producing original music.  They wrote and produced some pretty good music and soon Cash wrote and produced "I Walk The Line" that became the hit they were looking for.  Johnny joined Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis and they became known as "The Million Dollar Quartet."
Johnny and June

Johnny experienced some difficult times having gotten involved in drugs that ended in divorce.  He left Sun Records and relocated to Ventura, California and associated himself with Columbia Records.  By this time, Cash had created quite a name for himself and traveled 300 nights a year throughout the country.  He wrote and performed more popular hits including "Ring of Fire" and "Understand Your
Man."  He was a popular performer on the Opry Radio Broadcasts.  Although his music career was skyrocketing, his life was out of control.

In 1967, he met the woman who would turn his life around.  June Carter was a member of the founding family of country music.  She caused him to give up the drug habit and Cash eventually became a devout Christian.  He found himself hosting his own show "The Johnny Cash Show" that earned him two Grammy Awards.  He also released more hit singles "A Thing Called Love" and "One Piece at a Time."  He also was featured in a movie "The Pride of Jesse Hallam" and wrote his bestselling autobiography called "Man in Black"  He recorded and performed with "The Highwayman" that included Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.  He began to have setbacks with the addiction and as a result had medical issues.  He continued with his career but he continued to decline with his health. He was diagnosed with a condition known as "Shy-Drager Syndrome" The love of his life June Carter Cash died in May of 2003.  Her death was devastating to Johnny.  His physical illness along with the pain of June's death caused his death on September 12, 2003 less than four months after his wife.  He was 71.

Johnny Cash received many honors and accolades over his years of performing.  Among them was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Rolling Stone magazine ranked Cash "31" on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.  Movies were made about his life including "Walk the Line"  and Broadway's "Ring of Fire."

Johnny's funeral program
Johnny Cash funeral
Johnny Cash's funeral was held at the First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee (program pictured) on September 15 at noon.  Among those who paid tribute to Cash were Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and Kris Kristofferson.  Kristofferson told those in attendance "He represented the best of America; we're not going to see his like again."  Crow and Harris sang "The Old Rugged Cross and Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand" More than 1000 people attended including Vince Gill, Hank Williams Jr., and George Jones.  Pallbearers included Larry Gatlin, Marty Stuart and Randy Scruggs.  Dr. Franklin Graham (Billy's son) eulogized Cash and the "Angel Band" including the Cash family, Larry Gatlin and congregation sang to his memory.  His funeral program has Johnny's own words called Meet Me In Heaven"

A public memorial tribute (program pictured) was held Monday, November 10, 1003 at 7:30pm in Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  Master of Ceremonies for the event was Tim Robbins and special guests included Brooks & Dunn, Rosanne Cash, Kid Rock, and Willie Nelson to name a few.  Speakers included Tommy Cash, Al Gore, and Marshall Grant.

Johnny's public memorial program
The words of Robert Browning appear on the back of the program "This I believe-of this I am certain; from this life I shall pass to another better where that lady lives of whom my very soul is enamoured."

Johnny and June's resting place
"Johnny Cash will always be at home in the hearts of people the world over because his music, his stories, are timeless.  The boy from a cotton farm in Arkansas-the man, Johnny Cash, belongs to the people.  He is your legend and is destined to remain America's Foremost Singing Storyteller."

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