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Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone andspare 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. Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock & roll, and his rebellious attitude and simple, direct musical attackshared a lot of similarities with rock. Howe ...read more

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone andspare 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. Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock & roll, and his rebellious attitude and simple, direct musical attackshared a lot of similarities with rock. However, there was a deep sense of history -- as he would later illustrate with his series of historicalalbums -- that kept him forever tied with country. And he was one of country music's biggest stars of the '50s and '60s, scoring well over100 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 ownsongs. 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 stationKLCN. Cash graduated from high school in 1950, moving to Detroit to work in an auto factory for a brief while. With the outbreak of theKorean 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 beganwriting 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, he playedcountry music in a trio that also consisted of guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. The trio occasionally played for free on alocal radio station, KWEM, and tried to secure gigs and an audition at Sun Records.

Cash finally landed an audition with Sun Records and its founder, Sam Phillips, in 1955. Initially, Cash presented himself as a gospel singer,but Phillips turned him down. Phillips asked him to come back with something more commercial. Cash returned with "Hey Porter," whichimmediately caught Phillips' ear. Soon, Cash released "Cry Cry Cry"/"Hey Porter" as his debut single for Sun. On the single, Phillips billedCash as "Johnny," which upset the singer because he felt it sounded too young; the record producer also dubbed Perkins and Grant as theTennessee Two. "Cry Cry Cry" became a success upon its release in 1955, entering the country charts at number 14 and leading to a spoton The Louisiana Hayride, where he stayed for nearly a year. A second single, "Folsom Prison Blues," reached the country Top Five in early1956 and its follow-up, "I Walk the Line," was number one for six weeks and crossed over into the pop Top 20.

Cash had an equally successful year in 1957, scoring several country hits including the Top 15 "Give My Love to Rose." Cash also madehis Grand Ole Opry debut that year, appearing all in black where the other performers were decked out in flamboyant, rhinestone-studdedoutfits. Eventually, he earned the nickname of "The Man in Black." Cash became the first Sun artist to release a long-playing album inNovember of 1957, when Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar hit the stores. Cash's success continued to roll throughout 1958, as heearned his biggest hit, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (number one for ten weeks), as well another number one single, "Guess Things HappenThat Way." For most of 1958, Cash attempted to record a gospel album, but Sun refused to allow him to record one. Sun also was unwillingto increase Cash's record royalties. Both of these were deciding factors in the vocalist's decision to sign with Columbia Records in 1958.By the end of the year, he had released his first single for the label, "All Over Again," which became another Top Five success. Suncontinued to release singles and albums of unissued Cash material into the '60s.

"Don't Take Your Guns to Town," Cash's second single for Columbia, was one of his biggest hits, reaching the top of the country charts andcrossing over into the pop charts in the beginning of 1959. Throughout that year, Columbia and Sun singles vied for the top of the charts.Generally, the Columbia releases -- "Frankie's Man Johnny," "I Got Stripes," and "Five Feet High and Rising" -- fared better than the Sunsingles, but "Luther Played the Boogie" did climb into the Top Ten. That same year, Cash had the chance to make his gospel record --Hymns by Johnny Cash -- which kicked off a series of thematic albums that ran into the '70s.

The Tennessee Two became the Tennessee Three in 1960 with the addition of drummer W.S. Holland. Though he was continuing to havehits, the relentless pace of his career was beginning to take a toll on Cash. In 1959, he had begun taking amphetamines to help him getthrough his schedule of nearly 300 shows a year. By 1961, his drug intake had increased dramatically and his work was affected, which wasreflected by a declining number of hit singles and albums. By 1963, he had moved to New York, leaving his family behind. He was runninginto trouble with the law, most notably for starting a forest fire out West.

June Carter -- who was the wife of one of Cash's drinking buddies, Carl Smith -- would provide Cash with his return to the top of the chartswith "Ring of Fire," which she co-wrote with Merle Kilgore. "Ring of Fire" spent seven weeks on the top of the charts and was a Top 20 pophit. Cash continued his success in 1964 as "Understand Your Man" became a number one hit. However, Cash's comeback was short-livedas he sank further into addiction, and his hit singles arrived sporadically. Cash was arrested in El Paso for attempting to smuggleamphetamines into the country through his guitar case in 1965. That same year, the Grand Ole Opry refused to have him perform and hewrecked the establishment's footlights. In 1966, his wife Vivian filed for divorce. After the divorce, Cash moved to Nashville. At first, hewas as destructive as he ever had been, but he became close friends with June Carter, who had divorced Carl Smith. With Carter's help, hewas able to shake his addictions; she also converted Cash to fundamentalist Christianity. His career began to bounce back as "Jackson"and "Rosanna's Going Wild" became Top Ten hits. Early in 1968, Cash proposed marriage to Carter during a concert; the pair were marriedthat spring.

Also in 1968, Cash recorded and released his most popular album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Recorded during a prison concert, thealbum spawned the number one country hit "Folsom Prison Blues," which also crossed over into the pop charts. By the end of the year, therecord had gone gold. The following year, he released a sequel, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, which had his only Top Ten pop single, "A BoyNamed Sue," which peaked at number three; it also hit number one on the country charts. Cash guested on Bob Dylan's 1969 country-rockalbum Nashville Skyline. Dylan returned the favor by appearing on the first episode of The Johnny Cash Show, the singer's televisionprogram for ABC. The Johnny Cash Show ran for two years, between 1969 and 1971.

Cash was reaching a second peak of popularity in 1970. In addition to his television show, he performed for President Richard Nixon at theWhite House, acted with Kirk Douglas in The Gunfight, sang with John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and he was the subject of adocumentary film. His record sales were equally healthy as "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Flesh and Blood" were number one hits.Throughout 1971, Cash continued to have hits, including the Top Three "Man in Black." Both Cash and Carter became more socially activein the early '70s, campaigning for the civil rights of Native Americans and prisoners, as well as frequently working with Billy Graham.

In the mid-'70s, Cash's presence on the country charts began to decline, but he continued to have a series of minor hits and the occasionalchart-topper like 1976's "One Piece at a Time," or Top Ten hits like the Waylon Jennings duet "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang" and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky." Man in Black, Cash's autobiography, was published in 1975. In 1980, he became the youngest inductee to theCountry Music Hall of Fame. However, the '80s were a rough time for Cash as his record sales continued to decline and he ran into troublewith Columbia. Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis teamed up to record The Survivors in 1982, which was a mild success. TheHighwaymen -- a band featuring Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson -- released their first album in 1985, whichwas also moderately successful. The following year, Cash and Columbia Records ended their relationship and he signed with MercuryNashville. The new label didn't prove to be a success, as the company and the singer fought over stylistic direction. Furthermore, countryradio had begun to favor more contemporary artists, and Cash soon found himself shut out of the charts. Nevertheless, he continued to be apopular concert performer.

The Highwaymen recorded a second album in 1992, and it was more commercially successful than any of Cash's Mercury records. Aroundthat time, his contract with Mercury ended. In 1993, he signed a contract with American Records. His first album for the label, AmericanRecordings, was produced by the label's founder, Rick Rubin, and was a stark, acoustic collection of songs. American Recordings, while nota blockbuster success, revived his career critically and brought him in touch with a younger, rock-oriented audience. In 1995, theHighwaymen released their third album, The Road Goes on Forever. The following year, Cash released his second album for AmericanRecords, Unchained, which featured support from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. His VH1 Storytellers outing was released in 1998, and inthe spring of 2000, Cash compiled Love, God, Murder, a three-disc retrospective focusing on the major songwriting themes dominantthroughout his career. The new studio album American III: Solitary Man appeared later that year.

Health problems plagued Cash throughout the '90s and into the 2000s, but he continued to record with Rubin; their fourth collaboration,American IV: The Man Comes Around, was released in late 2002. The following year, the Mark Romanek-directed video for his cover ofNine Inch Nails' "Hurt" garnered considerable acclaim and media attention, culminating in an unexpected nomination for video of the year atthe MTV Video Music Awards. Not long after the video sparked numerous stories, his beloved wife June Carter Cash died on May 15, 2003,of complications following heart surgery. Four months later, Johnny died of complications from diabetes in Nashville, TN. He was 71. Fivemonths later, the compilation Legend of Johnny Cash became a Top Ten hit. In 2006 Lost Highway released the next-to-last installment ofCash's legendary "American" recordings, American V: A Hundred Highways, from the late singer's last sessions with collaborator RickRubin. The final installment from those sessions appeared as American VI: Ain't No Grave, in early 2010, and is reported to be the last ofthe American Recordings releases. Sony Legacy started a vigorous "bootleg" series of rare, unreleased or hard to find Cash tracks in 2011with the two-disc Bootleg, Vol. 1: Personal File and continued into 2012 with three further two-disc sets of rare material. « hide

Similar Bands: Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson

LPs
Out Among The Stars
2014

3.8
19 Votes
American VI: Ain't No Grave
2010

3.6
69 Votes
American V: A Hundred Highways
2006

4.1
169 Votes
American IV: The Man Comes Around
2002

4.1
366 Votes
American III: Solitary Man
2000

3.9
138 Votes
American II: Unchained
1996

3.9
99 Votes
American Recordings
1994

3.9
110 Votes
The Mystery of Life
1991

3.8
2 Votes
Boom Chicka Boom
1990

3.5
2 Votes
Water from the Wells of Home
1988

3
3 Votes
Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town
1987

3.1
5 Votes
Rainbow
1985

3.8
2 Votes
Johnny 99
1983

3.2
5 Votes
The Adventures of Johnny Cash
1982

3.3
4 Votes
The Baron
1981

4.2
3 Votes
Rockabilly Blues
1980

2.5
4 Votes
Silver
1979

3.3
5 Votes
Gone Girl
1978

3.5
2 Votes
I Would Like to See You Again
1978

3.8
2 Votes
The Rambler
1977

4
1 Votes
The Last Gunfighter Ballad
1977

3
2 Votes
One Piece at a Time
1976

3.5
3 Votes
Look at Them Beans
1975

3.3
2 Votes
John R. Cash
1975

3
2 Votes
The Johnny Cash Children's Album
1975

3.5
2 Votes
Junkie and the Juicehead Minus Me
1974

3.8
2 Votes
Ragged Old Flag
1974

3.8
5 Votes
Any Old Wind That Blows
1973

3.3
3 Votes
America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song
1972

2.9
5 Votes
A Thing Called Love
1972

3
4 Votes
Man in Black
1971

3.7
11 Votes
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
1970

3.7
8 Votes
From Sea to Shining Sea
1968

3.7
3 Votes
Happiness Is You
1966

4
4 Votes
Everybody Loves a Nut
1966

3.3
6 Votes
Sings the Ballads of the True West
1965

3.6
8 Votes
Orange Blossom Special
1965

4.2
14 Votes
Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian
1964

3.7
15 Votes
I Walk The Line
1964

3.8
22 Votes
The Original Sun Sound of Johnny Cash
1964

4.3
9 Votes
Blood, Sweat and Tears
1963

3.8
10 Votes
All Aboard the Blue Train
1962

4.5
5 Votes
The Sound of Johnny Cash
1962

3.8
6 Votes
Now Here's Johnny Cash
1961

3.9
6 Votes
Now, There Was a Song!
1960

3.7
9 Votes
Ride This Train
1960

4
13 Votes
Sings Hank Williams
1960

4.1
6 Votes
Songs of Our Soil
1959

3.6
14 Votes
Hymns By Johnny Cash
1959

3.6
10 Votes
Greatest!
1959

4.1
7 Votes
The Fabulous Johnny Cash
1959

4.3
16 Votes
Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous
1958

4.1
17 Votes
Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar
1957

4.1
54 Votes
EPs
The Rebel - Johnny Yuma
1959

3
1 Votes
Live Albums
Live from Austin, TX
2005

At Madison Square Garden
2002

4.3
2 Votes
Koncert V Praze (In Prague–Live)
1983

Strawberry Cake
1976

På Österåker
1973

3.7
3 Votes
The Johnny Cash Show
1970

At San Quentin
1969

4.5
163 Votes
At Folsom Prison
1968

4.5
374 Votes
Compilations
The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show: 1969-1971
2008

4
3 Votes
The Legend of Johnny Cash
2005

4.2
133 Votes
Lonesome In Black: The Legendary Sun Recordings
2004

3.8
3 Votes
Life
2004

5
1 Votes
Unearthed (BOX SET)
2003

4.1
19 Votes
The Essential Johnny Cash
2002

4.1
75 Votes
Murder
2000

4.3
4 Votes
God
2000

4
2 Votes
Love
2000

4.3
3 Votes
16 Biggest Hits: Johnny Cash
1999

4.3
8 Votes
Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series
1988

4.5
1 Votes
The Greatest Years 1958-1986
1987

4.2
5 Votes
Greatest Hits
1971

4.3
3 Votes
The Walls Of A Prison
1970

4
1 Votes
Original Golden Hits Volume II
1969

This Is Johnny Cash
1969

More of Old Golden Throat
1969

3.3
3 Votes
Greatest Hits Volume 1
1967

4.6
10 Votes

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