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Johnny Cash does his Elvis impression
07:44 am


Johnny Cash
Elvis Presley
June Carter

In which one towering figure of 20th century American music good-naturedly ribs another…

“You know at just about all of our shows, and wherever we go, we usually do an impersonation… and we had a request here tonight to do an impersonation of a rock and roll singer…”

This is funnier than you think it’s going to be.

Interesting historical footnote to this, it was Elvis who first “introduced” Johnny Cash to June Carter. In her own words:

He was stooped down on one knee and grasping a guitar trying to tune it to somewhere near the correct pitch to make a correct cord ring - ‘Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down, Ah-ummm - A - ummm’ and he’d strike the guitar again. Plink: plunk: ‘A-ummm ...’ What are you trying to do, I asked. ‘I’m trying to tune this blame guitar, honey, and I’m trying to sing like Johnny Cash’. Who is Johnny Cash I asked Elvis Presley, and I grabbed the guitar away from him. Mother Maybelle would never let me or Elvis go on the stage with a guitar that was that far out of tune! What’s the a-um-a-um for? ‘That’s what drives the girls crazy’ Elvis said. ‘Cash don’t have to move a muscle, he just sings and stands there’. I don’t know this Johnny Cash I said, and Elvis said: ‘Oh you’ll know Cash. The whole world will know Johnny Cash. He’s a friend of mine’. So the whole tour, my first with Elvis, we went into small cafes all throughout the south and Elvis played Johnny Cash on the jukebox while I fought off the girls trying to get through Scotty, Bill and I to Elvis. And the thing I remember the very best was the voice of Johnny Cash singing ‘You’re gonna cry, cry, cry and you’ll cry alone!’. Somehow this low voice just penetrated my heart and spoke to my loneliness, for I had no lover in my life and there was a terrific loneliness in my soul. I had visions of myself screaming ‘Hey Porter’ and riding a lonesome train home.

I had been working at the Grand Ole Opry since 1950 with my mother Maybelle and sisters, Helen, Anita and Chester Atkins. I would rush home from a tour on Saturday nights back to the same routine of loneliness and this particular night, I found myself backstage trying to tune my guitar humming Ah-ummm Ah-Ummm, when all of a sudden, there he was! The voice was the same. Johnny Cash took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you’. The strangest feeling came over me. I was afraid to look him in the eyes. It was one of the things I did best. I never stammered and still found myself not able to say much of anything. I think I finally blurted out - I feel like I know you already. Elvis plays you on the jukebox all the time and he can’t tune his guitar without humming ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ Now he’s got me doing it.

‘Why don’t you work with me on the road sometime?’ I’d like to I said. Hey, bring me one of your records. I’ve become a real fan.

I can’t remember anything else we talked about, except his eyes. Those black eyes that shone like agates. I only glanced into them because I believed that I would be drawn into his soul and I would never have been able to walk away, had he asked me to go with him. I felt that he was the most handsome man I’d ever met. I saw him take six encores that night. He had a command of his performance that I had never seen before. Just a guitar and a base and a gentle kind of presence that made not only me, but whole audiences become his followers. I walked away from him that evening.

The next time I saw Johnny Cash, he brought me his new record and we did find the time to talk together. Both of us afraid to look, and both afraid to see the lost and lonely souls that we were. For the next few years, I never saw him where I did not remember when, where and who he was with. John told me that after seeing him on stage that very first time in Nashville, he knew he was going to marry me. I guess neither of us ever forgot that. We walked away from each other and we both made some bad choices in our travels. I wondered if he has as hard a time with my blue eyes as I had with his, and after he wrote ‘I Still Miss Someone’ I think he might have really looked.

It took such a long time of praying and of walking away when I knew from first looking at him that his hurt was as great as mine, and from the depths of my despair, I stepped up to feel the fire and there is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns. And so came the idea for the song ‘Ring Of Fire’. I was ashamed to tell John that I had always cared, that I couldn’t get him off my mind. Out of the loneliness came one song after another. There was so much hurt for both of us. And hurt for those we loved that only God could have pulled us out of that ‘Ring Of Fire’. For the last 35 years, I have been able to look into those black steel eyes and feel his love, and realize he always cared.

—from the liner notes for the Johnny Cash CD, Love.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch all four Johnny Cash Christmas specials

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash
From 1976 to 1979, CBS ran a Johnny Cash Christmas special every year—it must have been a significant Christmas tradition in many homes (alas, not my own). For those who remember Cash as the ultimate rebel par excellence, these specials make for some interesting viewing. During the 1970s Cash experienced a slump in record sales, and during this period he was a familiar face on TV, appearing as a guest star on Columbo and Little House on the Prairie and doing commercials for Amoco.

In these specials, the sentimentality of the occasion can’t be ignored, so Cash gamely refashioned himself as a family-friendly country music TV host. We’re far from the middle-finger Johnny Cash or Folsom Prison Blues; there’s a decent amount of corny levity to be seen here. You might say that this is the closest that Cash came to a figure on Hee Haw (of course, he appeared on Hee Haw as well).
Johnny Cash as Santa Claus
Of course, June Carter Cash is every bit as present as Johnny—the emphasis here is charmingly on family, and many of June and Johnny’s wide-ranging clan of relatives are featured, especially in the 1976 and 1979 specials, which were taped in Tennessee.

If you find yourself inundated with cheesy Christmas songs in every retail establishment you dare to enter, you can surely improve your life by dialing up The Johnny Cash Christmas Special, with its mix of Christmas classics and country-western fare, in their stead.

Taped in Nashville, the special that kicked it off is the most homespun of the bunch. The entire second half of the show is framed as an expansive musical visit around the Cash family hearth. Earlier, Johnny and June join Tony Orlando for “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” and (back at the hearth) Barbara Mandrell, several years before she and her sisters got a show of their own on NBC, engages in some ass-kicking steel guitar wizardry before singing “A Beautiful Morning with You.” Billy Graham ends with a downbeat sermon.

The 1977 edition may be the strongest from a musical perspective, or maybe it’s just my own bias in favor of rock over country. There’s scarcely any humor sketches, which would predominate in the next two years, and the core of the show is dedicated to three of rock and roll’s most venerable heroes, all associated with Sun Studios, just as Cash himself was. In rapid succession we get Carl Perkins singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” Roy Orbison singing “Pretty Woman,” and Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” before Lewis essays a reverent rendition of “White Christmas.” Then the three of them and Cash come together to sing “This Train Is Bound For Glory” in a tribute to Elvis, who had died just a few months earlier. Also, Johnny spends a good chunk of the show wearing Army fatigues (!).

The 1978 Johnny Cash Christmas Special, like the 1977 edition, was taped in Los Angeles, and it shows a little. The guests include Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Steve Martin, who as a budding superstar is given a fair amount of time for his hijinks. The high point is probably Cash and Kristofferson singing the latter’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” together.

It’s not news that DM is very Andy Kaufman-friendly, so it was something of a shock to hit play on the 1979 special and see none other than Kaufman himself in the opening bit. For this version of the special, Cash returned to Nashville, and the presence of an appreciative Opryland audience is a blessing. Kaufman scarcely strays from his Latka character, except when he does a completely straight version of Elvis Presley’s “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” It’s well known that Elvis loved Andy’s impersonation; here’s a fine chance to see it.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Johnny Cash Sings Austrian Jams
Shit-hot: The PERFECT Johnny Cash set from German TV, 1972

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Shit-hot: The PERFECT Johnny Cash set from German TV, 1972
12:50 pm


Johnny Cash
June Carter
Carl Perkins

Talk about a ring of fire… Watch this highly enjoyable (I’d go so far to say it’s “inspiring”) 1972 Johnny Cash episode of Germany’s Beat Club TV show, featuring The Tennessee 3, June Carter and her sister Anita Carter, along with special guest Carl Perkins.

Perkins gets the audience warmed up with his “Blue Suede Shoes,” then Cash steps onstage for a charming reading of Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” and a few words in German (Cash served in the US Air Force there). Then he goes into Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (the first of three numbers by the songwriter) and it just keeps getting better from there.

It’s pretty much the perfect mid-career Johnny Cash set, and when June comes out, forget about it, the whole thing just goes into overdrive. The quality is very good here.

Carl Perkins: “Blue Suede Shoes”
Johnny Cash: “A Boy Named Sue”
Johnny Cash: “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
Johnny Cash: “Tennessee Flat Top Box”
Johnny Cash: “I Still Miss Someone / Me and Bobby McGee”
Anita Carter: “Lovin’ Him was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”
Johnny Cash: “Rock Island Line”
Johnny Cash: “Folsom Prison Blues”
Johnny Cash: “I Walk The Line”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “Jackson”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “If I Were a Carpenter/Help Me Make It Through the Night”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “If I Had a Hammer”
Johnny Cash: “A Thing Called Love”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash and June Carter window shades

Delightful Johnny Cash and June Carter window shade set by Etsy seller Drink and Dream. They’re $150 for the pair.

Below, Johnny Cash and June Carter performing “If I Were A Carpenter.”

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment