His attire, whether it be o or off the stage, was as simple as his greeting. For the man who became known as “The Man in Black” would greet fans with four simple words, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash”. He was a simple man who came from simple beginnings, but led a complicated life.
Cash was born JR Cash on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas. By the age of five JR was working and singing in the cotton fields with his family in Dyess, Arkansas. He began writing songs at the age of 12. While in high school Cash would perform regularly on radio station KLON.
In 1950 Cash graduated from college and worked at an automobile factory in Detroit. Then came Korea and Cash joined the Air Force. Since the military would not except initials Cash took the name John R. Cash. While in the Air Force Cash bought a guitar and taught himself to play and while in Germany he penned the song “Folsom Prison Blues”.
Cash have various encounters with the law over the years but other than an overnight stay in lock-up Cash never served a prison term. One such run in came when his pickup truck caught fire and caused a huge forest fire in California. When the judge asked Cash why he did it; Cash replied, “I didn’t, the truck did and its dead so you can’t question it.”
In 1954 Cash married Vivian Leberto. The couple was married for 12 years and had four children.
In 1955 while taking a course for a radio announcer while working as an appliance salesman and playing gigs at night Cash approached Sun Records. His first attempts at Sun was gospel music. Cash was told to come back with something else; which he later did and was signed. In 1957 Cash became the first artist at Sun to record a full length album. Cash released three singles before he had a hit.
Over the course of his career Johnny Cash had over 100 hit singles and sold over 50 million records. Along the way he collected 12 Grammy Awards and became the youngest living member to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at 48.
Cash had a drinking problem and later became addicted to drugs. In 1968 with the help of June Carter, Cash kicked the addiction. He later married Carter who admitted to admiring him from afar when Cash toured with the family. The number one hit “Ring of Fire” was co-written by Carter and spoke of that forbidden love and of Cash’s drug addiction.
The seventies brought a decline in record sales but touring continued to be successful. The eighties brought little change