"Hello I'm Johnny Cash/one night I had a backstage pass to the Willie Nelson show/ there were wackos and weirdoes and dingbats and dodos/ and athletes and movie stars and David Allan Coe/ there was leather and lace and every minority race/ with a backstage pass to the Willie Nelson Show." - A Backstage Pass - John R Cash.

The year is 1991 - roots country reigns on community radio, street press and oases in the mainstream print media.

And the South Yarra Saloon - formerly a wealth belt gay bar known as Masie's - features the genre to lure music lovers.

So that's the logical locale for The Highwaymen entourage to unwind after a Rod Laver Arena concert.

It's also where John Carter Cash got lost in the mists of time and booze that have long been a staple of the Cash-Carter DNA and dynasty.

John Carter, only son of the late Johnny and June Carter Cash, doesn't remember much about the night he was "kidnapped" by the new breed highwaymen - Texan outlaws and Aussie compadres.

A resultant lecture from his parents ensured the latter day producer would rarely become lost again with those hedonistic hombres in Shotgun Willie Nelson's road crew.

There was also a stint in rehab shortly after he went back home to Music City.

Now, for almost 10 years, Cash has catalogued and resurrected historic tapes his dad meticulously preserved in his studio so they would not be lost.

The result - the Columbia/Legacy Records two CD set Bootlegs 2: From Memphis to Hollywood.

It's sequel to Personal File a/k/a Bootleg Vol. 1 - two-CD set of 49 songs featuring Cash solo on guitar and recorded from 1973-1982, and released in May of 2006.

They are among many projects that the creative Cash clan archivist has embarked on in a career that has already won him five Grammy Awards.

He recently produced Loretta Lynn tribute disc, Coalminer's Daughter, with one of the Lynn twins - Patsy - and released two solo albums and a third generation Carter Family CD.

And, of course, he appeared with his dad and other Highwaymen in the western movie Stagecoach before a DJ role in the 2005 Walk The Line movie that also found him executive producer.

But let's briefly revisit that fateful night - final of five Australian tours with his mum and dad.

"If we were hanging out and we got lost we really were having a very big night," Cash, now 41, told Nu Country TV in a call from his Cash Cabin studio in Nashville.

"That was probably my wilder years - that was one of the wildest years of my life actually.

I'm sure we had a great night. I may well have gone to the saloon but I don't remember it.

I remember being in Melbourne with the Highwaymen in 1991. Back in 1991 I might have been having a really big time in Melbourne. There may have been no hope for me other than to get lost."


"And waitin' in the wings to sing with Willie/ were hopeful stars of flickering magnitude." - A Backstage Pass - John R Cash.

But it's tape recovery - not loss - that has the prolific producer preserving the rich history of famous father Johnny who died at 71 on September 12, 2003.

Cash and Greg Geller rescued rare recordings of the man in black's early recording career and Memphis radio show.

"He had a storage vault where he kept all these tapes," Cash revealed. "After he passed away we went through the vault and documented all these things. With the help of Sony Records we transferred all the tapes to digital so they would last forever. The Personal File was also stuff that was in those storage vaults. There's a lot of stuff there with great heart, lot of stuff never saw the light of day. It's good to get the music out there. The genesis of this was my father never threw anything away. Dad cherished his recordings whether or not the record company thought it was the time to release or whether the record company cherished them or not. He had put away these recordings in storage.

There's lot of different stuff - mostly my father's archives, things he put away so hopefully one day they would be appreciated."


"We were just a plain ol' hillbilly band with a plain ol' country style/ we never played the kind of songs that'd drive anybody wild/ played a railroad song with a stomping beat/ we played a blues song, kinda slow and sweet." - Luther Played The Boogie - John R Cash.

Disc 1 includes seven outtakes from Sun Records produced by Sam Phillips and singer-songwriter Cowboy Jack Clement who opened for Cash on his 1985 Australian tour.

"I have been to Australia many times, the first when I was one-year old," Cash twice wed father of three children, revealed.

"I went regularly until I was 21. I've always loved Australia, always loved the people.

Cowboy Jack worked with my dad all through the eighties. He was also engineer on the Sun Sessions in the fifties. They got to be good friends back then. And they stayed dear friends throughout his whole lifetime."

The disc includes a 15-minute live radio broadcast that Cash hosted from KWEM, Memphis on Saturday, May 21, 1955 - the month he recorded his first single Cry! Cry! Cry!

Cash worked for Home Equipment Company - show sponsor - located across the street from the radio station.

He sang Belshazzar, Luther's Boogie, One More Ride and Wide Open Ride - with The Tennessee Two - late guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant.

Some of the Memphis radio shows were featured in the Walk The Line movie.

"That's more of the things that my father had put away," Cash recalled.

"I believe if he knew this was coming out now he would have been very grateful he had put them away to be released later. He had the foresight to do that. In the extended version of the Walk The Line movie I play the DJ Bob Neal who was around at the same time. I was executive producer of Walk The Line and it was a real blessing to do that."

Shooter Jennings played his late father Waylon in the movie in which Joaquin Phoenix was cast as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash.


Kristofferson got an offer for a movie/promoters closed another deal or two/Waylon got a call from his son Shooter/and he went home the minute he was through." - A Back Stage Pass - John R Cash.

So what about that role with his dad, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, the late Waylon Jennings and widow Jessi Colter, David Allan Coe, John Schneider, Glen Clark and Anthony Newley in 1986 movie Stagecoach?

"That still sees the light of the day quite often," Cash revealed.

"I was 15 years old then. I played a character named Billy Picken (not the former Collingwood and Hamilton footballer.) When you've only been in two movies in your lifetime you always remember all of those lines for the rest of your life. I portrayed a boy who ran an outpost. I was very well fed when I was 15. He took control of this big farm in the desert. It was a blessing to be part of that movie. I turned it on the other day and there I was."

Stagecoach was released the same year as The Last Days of Jesse James - Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Swan, Donnie Fritts, June Carter Cash, Ed Bruce, Earl Poole Ball, Cash's stepbrother Jack Wesley Routh, son John Jackson and Marcia Cross were among the cast.


"He was born to be known/ as everybody's brother/ he is the Father Son and Mary is his mother/ He is a 'scuse my slanguage, well a compound country kinda guy/ yes he is ain't no way to get around it, you just can't beat Jesus Christ." - You Can't Beat Jesus Christ - Billy Joe Shaver.

Cash also produced the Peasall Sisters song Where No One Stands Alone for new Jeff Bridges movie True Grit - a remake of the original starring the late John Wayne, Robert Duvall and Glen Campbell.

"I produced their record few years back and they're extremely talented," Cash added.

"They're also on the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou movie. It was a blessing to be able to do that and I believe in their music."

Bridges also played a character Bad Blake loosely based on another of Cash's clients septuagenarian Billy Joe Shaver in Crazy Heart.

Carter Cash scored a Grammy nomination for production of Billy Joe's 2007 gospel CD Everybody's Brother.

Cash was bemused to learn Shaver recently filled out an application to remarry second wife Wanda - the nurse he wed after first wife Brenda, whom he married three times, died in Waco.

"Well, good, I think they might have done this before," Cash joked about the Texan who attended Little Rock, Arkansas, last month to watch his friend Robert Moore being sworn in as the state Speaker of the House. Shaver, acquitted last year of shooting a relative of Wanda who stirred his drink with a knife at Papa Joe's Saloon at Lorena south of Waco, sang several songs a capella at the ceremony.


"What all can you give/with five minutes to live/hear the tock tick tock of the laughing clock/ what will you do or say/ maybe you oughta pray/ but you better think positive/ you got five minutes to live." - Five Minutes To Live - John R Cash

Disc 2 covers Cash's first 11 years at Columbia from 1958-1969 - with rare B-sides and outtakes.

Several versions of songs not released in U.S. are on the 25-track disc - including Five Minutes to Live and The Frozen Logger.

Cash had moved his family including daughter Rosanne to Los Angeles where he worked as a songwriter and actor in movies and TV.

His dual career boosted popularity of gunfighter ballads and story songs popular in late 1950's and 1960's.

Johnny Yuma Theme, Restless Kid, Hardin Wouldn't Run and Shifting, Whispering Sands with actor Lorne Greene, preceded his role in 1971 western A Gunfight with Kirk Douglas.

But was it Cash's role in the movie Five Minutes To Live that sourced the title track?

"The fact that he was in the film, he wrote the song hoping that it would be part of the movie," Cash said.

"It's great that it's coming out now after all these years - there are some gems in there."

What about Shifting Whispering Sands?

"We found the alternative version in the vault," Cash said.

"The original version from the movie is, I believe, on his Ballads Of The True West but this is the version that was never released."

The gunfighter ballads struck a chord with the archivist.

"That's some of my favourite stuff, he ever did actually," Cash added.

"The Ballads Of The True West and Bitter Tears, they're probably my two favourite Johnny Cash records other than the ones I worked on."

Cash worked with Rick Rubin as associate producer on Johnny Cash's Grammy winning records American III: Solitary Man and American IV: The Man Comes Around, the latter receiving three CMA awards.

He was also associate producer on American V: A Hundred Highways and American VI: Ain't No Grave.


Cash also unearthed his dad's recordings of Mississippi pioneer Jimmie Rodgers Brakeman's Blues and Lead Belly standard Goodnight Irene.

They echo his early interest in folk music - 14 years before his records with Bob Dylan in Nashville.

"He recorded a few Jimmie Rodgers songs, one of which was on the American V CD," Cash recalled.

"Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family and Hank Snow, that was what he listened to. They were his major country influences. He was greatly influenced by gospel - Sister Rosanna Tharp and other stuff."

So what about the Dylan collaborations?

"The foresight they had, it was all of joy his work with Dylan, what they did," Cash said.

"They enjoyed being around each other and they played off each other's creativity very well. They were dear friends."


"Hells Angels blocked the traffic to the building/ in order for the beer truck to come through/ and waitin' in the wings to sing with Willie/ were hopeful stars of flickering magnitude." - A Backstage Pass - John R Cash.

Carter Cash released his first solo CD, Bitter Harvest, in 2003, followed by The Family Secret.

Cash, wife Laura - a fiddler and singer - and cousin Dale Jett, grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter, also released a CD as The Carter Family III - Past And Present.

"The Family Secret is available on Amazon online but hasn't been released in Australia yet," Cash said.

"I've been in the studio today recording more of my own material. Laura Cash is an amazing fiddle player and vocalist. Dale Jett is from southwest Virginia and he's the real deal as far as I'm concerned. Noone is doing it as pure and true as he is. He's the grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter. The project I'm working on now I'm calling it Fables - mainly story songs. It's pure music - minimal instrumentation."

John also produced his mother June Carter Cash's CD, Press On that won a Grammy in 1999 and Wildwood Flower that scored a Grammy for best traditional folk album in 2003.

His 2004 production Unbroken Circle: Musical Heritage of The Carter Family won three Grammy nominations.

He also produced his mother's tribute disc Anchored In Love, and wrote the accompanying biography book.

Cash is also co-producer of brother-in-law Marty Stuart's 2006 CD, Badlands: The Voice of the Spirit, The Gospel of the South, and others by step sister Rosanne and another brother in law, Rodney Crowell.

Other production credits include Loretta Lynn, Josh Turner, Brooks & Dunn, Billy Joe Shaver, Elvis Costello, Wylie & Wild West, George Jones, Mavis Staples, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander, Norman and Nancy Blake, Tim O'Brien, Dave Matthews, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Earl and Randy Scruggs, John Cowan, Todd Snider, Vince Gill, John Prine and Tony Rice.

Cash has also written three illustrated children's books - Momma Loves Her Little Son March, Daddy Loves His Little Girl and The Cat in the Rhinestone Suit.

"The Cat In The Rhinestone Suit will be coming out in 2012," Cash said. "I have the other two books out at the moment. I had a lot of fun putting them together."

Cash hopes to build on his Grammy successes with his dad's new bootleg series.

"I have been a producer on five Grammy winning records, some of those records I only produced one song," Cash said.

"I'm hoping this project will also be nominated."

And what about the future for the long sober archivist?

"It's great talking to you again," he joked, "I'll talk to you again in another 20 years."

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