Short Biography of Johnny Cash
Known as “The Man in Black” for the way he dressed on stage, Johnny Cash began his expansive five-decade career in 1955. As his career progressed, he kept to his own style of song – a sound that often intersected folk, ran alongside rock & roll, but was labeled as country. With his own distinct sound and stark rhythms, his songs were the backdrop of a generation of Americans looking for a branded, yet eclectic style of music.
Before J.R., as he was called on his birth certificate and how family members addressed him, was a teenager, he knew that he enjoyed writing songs. In high school, he performed for the town’s local radio station, and by listening to his mother’s hymns and tuning into the country radio station, he tried to create songs that made his mother proud. As a youngster, the accidental death of his brother would haunt Cash for the rest of his days. Many claim that this was the muse for his melancholic, dark sound – another primary reason he always wore black.
Inspired by a documentary film about Folsom Prison while serving in the Air force from 1950 until 1954, Cash bought a guitar and wrote more music, including one of his most famous recordings with Sun Records entitled “Folsom Prison Blues”. Following his Air Force stint in Germany, he married Vivian Leberto, moved to Memphis, and worked with his small band, which included Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, while attempting to make a living as a salesman.
After obtaining a session with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, he performed “Hey Porter” and “Cry Cry Cry,” which were immediately recorded and released as a debut, single album that heatedly climbed the charts and set Johnny’s dreams into rapid succession. With the denial by Sun Records to allow the artist to record a gospel album, he decided to sign with Columbia Records. Besides his hymnal releases, Columbia took his music across genres, bringing him to the top of the country, and oftentimes, the pop charts.
Throughout the early to mid 1960s, Johnny Cash became addicted to amphetamines, thereby making him more withdrawn than ever from the public’s eye. And, in 1965, he was arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs in his guitar case through an El Paso airport. These unfortunate events coupled with his unsure relationship with June Carter sparked a destructive behavior.
His career did not bounce back until Carter was able to help him overcome his drug addiction and convert him to a more fundamental form of Christianity. Following, in 1968, Johnny Cash did two remarkable career-boosting moves: he married June Carter and recorded a live album titled “Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison”. Between them, the couple shared seven children and June Carter gave birth to John Carter Cash in 1971, which was their only son. In 1975, Cash published his autobiography entitled Man in Black. In the early 80s, he became the youngest inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Throughout the rest of the 80s, 90s, and into the 21st century, he released numerous award-winning albums that stuck tight to his own tightly branded tunes, strong ballads and crisp music that still stand the test of time.
People interested in this biography of Johnny Cash may also be interested in:
- June Carter Cash
- Carter Family Singers
- Elvis Presley
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Carl Perkins
- Willie Nelson
- Bob Dylan
- Nine Inch Nails
- Joaquin Phoenix
- Merle Kilgore
- Waylon Jennings