SPECIAL NOTE: WHAT FOLLOWS BELOW IS BOTH MY TRIBUTE TO JOHNNY CASH, AND, A REVIEW OF THE BOOK "HOUSE OF CASH: THE LEGACIES OF MY FATHER, JOHNNY CASH", By his son, John Carter Cash. Insight Editions, Pub.
THE JOHNNY CASH TRIBUTE...
LIKE ALL TEENAGER'S GROWING-UP IN THE 1950'S, I had seen, and heard, the "music of the day" on our radio's & juke boxes, shift and change from Frankie Laine, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Perry Como, Jo Stafford, and the rest, to Fats Domino, Laverne Baker, Little Richard, The Diamonds, Ruth Brown, and, Chuck Berry. Nobody needed to tell me "rock & roll was here to stay"...I already knew that !
But it was 1956 that was really a pivotal "year of change"for music, as Elvis hit the scene hard-and-heavy...and brought with him the "Sun Sound", so-named for the record label he was signed with. That "sound" would also become known universally as "Rock-A-Billy"...the fusion of Rock & Roll and Country & Western. Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records, would also sign Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and, Roy Orbison.
AS FATE WOULD HAVE IT, it was in the Fall of 1956 that I first heard a plaintive, rhythmic sound coming out of my little Majestic Table Model Radio...it was by another Sun artist, JOHNNY CASH, it was entitled "I Walk The Line". And, I was hooked ! I immediately went out and bought the 78 RPM version of that record...and almost all of Cash's follow-up's, including the ones he would record with his new label, Columbia Records, a few years later.
(In that photo up above, it's the Sun Records "Million Dollar Quartet": Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and, Johnny Cash.)
FAST FORWARD TO APRIL, 1969, I arrived at KAAY Radio in Little Rock, Arkansas, to begin what would turn-out to be, three-and-a half years of the absolute best part of my Radio career. In your career, as in life, "timing is everything". And, landing in L.R. at KAAY in 1969 was perfect timing for me !
Arkansas was "hot" at that moment in time: Glen Campbell, from Delight, Arkansas, had become one of Capitol Records biggest-selling artists, starred in "True Grit" with John Wayne, and had his own TV Show "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour". And a fellow-Arkansan from Dyess, Arkansas, Johnny Cash, starred in his own TV Series on ABC TV aptly titled "The Johnny Cash Show". To top it off, "Hee Haw" on CBS TV also added to the C&W vibe that was so prevelant at that time. SO, yes, I had definetly landed at the "Right Place, At The Right Time" !
By the Fall of 1969, in addition to my On-Air duties, I was honored to be named KAAY's Music Director, meeting with local, regional, national, and independent, promotion representatives for various record labels from around the country. In the course of that association, I was honored by attaining much national recognition, as KAAY, with our 50,000 Watts of Clear-Channel Power beamed us across America and into many Foreign countries...KAAY was truly a power to be reckoned with. We were one of the Nation's premiere Radio Stations, listened to by thousands day & night.
WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE IN MIND, and knowing how big a fan of Johnny Cash's that I've been since the early days, this is where my Personal "Johnny Cash Story " starts:
IT WAS A WARM ARKANSAS DAY, a Wednesday, May 31st, 1972, and I was doing my Mid-Day airshift, when I got a call on the KAAY Studio intercom line from our receptionist. She said "Jonnie, there's a man on-the-line that wants to talk to you. He says he's Johnny Cash." Well, I replied that I thought it was probably one of my record promoter friends trying to pull a joke on me, but to go ahead and forward the call to me...which she did.
When I picked-up the phone I said "Hi. This is Jonnie King, who's this please ?" To which this deep-bass, fully recognizable voice answered, "Hello, Jonnie, this is Johnny Cash" ! Even as I write these words almost forty-one year's later, I still can't express to you the surprise and awe that I felt as that deep, familiar, voice that I'd heard for all of those years, for the first time was talking directly to me. I have Interviewed, spent time with, and talked to many stars during my career, but at that instant I was almost speechless and stunned from the top of my head to the tip of my shoes...and that's the truth.
Johnny Cash had the power and the sound of the " Voice of God" within that deep baritone of his. The sound of his voice in your ear made God seem even closer.
Usually, when an artist is going to call you, or you're going to do an Interview with them, their record company rep, or, their manager, will set it up with you...and you'll know when to expect the call. Knowing that Johnny called on his own, was a true honor and one I didn't take lightly, as he had contacted me - as Music Director - to ask me about a new project he had put together at his home-based recording studio that was built on his property in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Due to the reach and the power of KAAY, he knew that we were an important station with an excellent national reputation Industry-Wide. Further, since his roots were in Arkansas, it was also important to him as one of our 'Hometown Heroes" that had a Worldwide impact, to make sure that the product was one that we could use, and that our audience would enjoy.
For the next few minutes we talked about his music, our radio station, his TV Show that had been on ABC, and in the process, I told him pretty much what you've seen written in those first paragraphs at the top of this Page: I'd followed his career since 1956, appreciated all that he'd done, played his records during all those year's, and it was wonderful to finally be able to tell him that one-on-one.
He couldn't have been nicer. A true gentleman in every respect, and I asked him that - since we were already on the phone- if he'd let me put him on-the-air so that we could do an Interview. Again, even though I knew he needed to make other calls that day, he said "Sure ! I'd be glad to." That Interview turned-out to be one of the best I've ever done.
It all went smoothly, sounded perfect. He was kind, generous...a consumate Pro. I can't tell you how many phone calls I got about the Interview that day after we hung up, or, how many that met me after I left the Station who wanted to ask me about it, and thank me for it. That surprise Interview was literally the "Talk of the Town" in Little Rock for days: "Johnny Cash On KAAY !"
(However, due to the older equipment that I had available to record the Interview with in the Air Studio, the taped-version was lost forever because of problems with a faulty machine.)
THAT DAY, WEDNESDAY, MAY 31st, 1972, has been etched into my memory banks for all these years. It was the day that Johnny Cash called me. The day I got to thank him for all he'd done, and the impact that he'd made in my life. And to this very moment, from the bottom of my heart, I hope he knew how important that phone call was to me.
Jonnie King (3-25-2013)
NOTE: My favorite Johnny Cash songs ? Many have asked me that through the years, so here's my List: "I Walk The Line", "Home Of The Blues", "Understand Your Man", "I'd Just Be Fool Enough", "Guess Things Happen That Way", "I Got Stripes", "Get Rhythm", "Folsom Prison Blues" (live), and "Sunday Morning Coming Down".
My ultimate favorite though for many reasons, some personal, is the haunting, beautiful "I Still Miss Someone" from 1958...if I were to loose all of the rest, this is the one that I'd have to save.
"HOUSE OF CASH: THE LEGACIES OF MY FATHER, JOHNNY CASH", By John Carter Cash. Insight Editions, Pub.
RARELY IS A BOOK A "WORK OF ART"...THIS ONE IS.
It opens with John Carter Cash's description of his father: "My father was a complicated man. There is no denying that. He was a man of steadfast faith and an open book in so many ways. But he was also a very deep and even mysterious man, intriguing and unpredictable..." What follows in the journey you will take during the 160 pages of this massive 12"x9" volume, is a first-hand look into the music, life, loves, and career, of an American icon.
John Carter Cash, is the only child born of the marriage of two music legends: Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash. The love he had for his parents is self-evident in this book, and his honesty about his feelings for his father are manifested on every page of this "Cash-Carter Family" based volume.
Pulling no punches, you are immersed into the entire world of this musical giant that became known as "The Man In Black". From his early beginnings in Arkansas to his world travels, you follow his path no matter where it leads. His song writing, his poetry, his paintings, his photography, his playful/humorous side, his addictions, his ailments, his friends...if it was a part of the life of Johnny Cash, you will read about it within these pages.
Most of all you will learn about his steadfast, deep abiding faith in God, his loyalty to his friends...and the compassion he had for those less fortunate souls, no matter where in the world he traveled.
Through the years his friends included many whose names you know: the Reverend Billy Graham, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Horton, Kris Kristofferson, "Cowboy" Jack Clement...and many more too numerous to mention. But his family always came first, and you will also learn about his love for each and every one in it: his parents, children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, cousins, his talented & loving wife, June, and the members of her family.
What makes this book so special is that John Carter Cash, and his wife Laura, went through the archives of Johnny & June and acquired information and documents that only they could have access to. In so doing, the added bonus of the book includes facimilies, documents, and many, many photos that you will see nowhere else: a copy of JR's High School diploma from Dyess Arkansas, rare photos of Johnny & June, Johnny's recipe's, including Chili (he liked to cook,too !), some of his artwork, poem's he wrote to June, copies of his lyric/song sheets...and that's just a sampling of what's in-store for you !
I had followed Johnny Cash's career since I was a teenager in 1956, and was privileged to receive a phone call from him while I was Music Director at the 50,000 Watt Giant, KAAY Radio in Little Rock, in May of 1972. That call turned into an On-The-Air Interview that I'll never forget, and Johnny Cash was one of the most courteous and kind individuals I've ever known. His music had been a part of my life for as long as I could remember, but his thoughtfullness and warmth that came through the phone that day during our conversation will forever live in my memory banks.
Johnny Cash was an American "original" in every sense of the word. His body of work continued for over five decades, and this loving chronical of his life, his music, and his impact on all whose lives he touched, and continues to touch years after his death, is set-down in this wonderful volume by his only son: John Carter Cash....a son who not only loved his father, but wanted to share that love, and his stories, with all of us.
If you would buy only one book that covered the true history of Johnny Cash, this would be it.
(This book is available directly from the Publisher at www.insighteditions.com or at Amazon at www.amazon.com )