Johnny Cash is known as one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, with over 160 albums. His deep baritone voice blended elements of rock and roll, country, folk and gospel. Johnny Cash, born J.R. in February 26, 1932 to parents Ray and Carrie Rivers Cash, began writing his own songs at age 12. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War shortly after graduating high school. While on duty he bought his own guitar and taught himself how to play.
After leaving the Air Force in 1954, Johnny Cash moved to Memphis and took up broadcasting over the radio, performing country music with a trio group in the evenings. In 1955, Cash caught the attention of Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records. Cash released his first single: “Cry Cry Cry/Hey Porter.”
He released many other hits throughout the next few years, including the top hit “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” which reached number one for ten weeks. He also got attention in another way by dressing in dark clothing rather than colorful outfits that other country artists were wearing at the time – thus, Johnny Cash got the nick name “the man in black.”
In 1958, Johnny Cash left Sun Records and signed with Columbia Records. There, he continued topping the country charts with hits like “All Over Again” his first single released from Columbia Records. He also got the chance to record his first of many gospel records, called Hymns by Johnny Cash.
The 60s were a rough period for “the man in black” as the rigors of touring helped spur his addiction to amphetamines; he was performing at over 300 concerts a year. This drug abuse and burn out caused a drop in sales and hit singles. In 1965, he was arrested for attempting to smuggle amphetamines in his guitar case in Texas. His first wife divorced him and he was acting out and getting into trouble with the law.
With the help of his friend’s ex-
The end of the 1960s show Johnny Cash’s best album release in which he performed live at a prison, called “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison”, where the hit “Folsom Prison Blues” was born. He also briefly had his own TV show: The Johnny Cash Show.
In the 70s, Johnny Cash acted in movies, sung with popular country singers, performed for President Nixon in the White House, and became increasingly involved in the rights of Native Americans and prisoners. His music was no longer constantly reaching the top by the end of the 70s, but he released an autobiography and became the youngest person to become inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Johnny Cash was recording his last album when he died of diabetes complications on September 12, 2003, shortly after his wife June Carter died. He left the world with his legendary music that created an era that crossed multiple genres of music and left a stark, realistic view of the world through his eyes.