DIARY - 23 SEPTEMBER 2003
HANK WILLIAMS FLIES IN FOR CASH FUNERAL
Cash with Dave Dawson
picture was in all the papers/ they said that a legend had passed/
the late evening news did a special report/ swore that his memory
would last/ they're playing his records all weekend/ praising the
life that he lived/ Nashville is rough on the living/ but she really
speaks well of the dead." - Rough On The Living - Shel Silverstein.
Johnny Cash was finally laid to rest at 71 on Monday September 15
he had a VIP ghost among his mourners - Hank Williams.
news reader Mal Walden reported that Hank, who went to God at 29 on January
1, 1953, was among 1,000 celebrities at the private First Baptist Church
Of Hendersonville service.
Mal's revelation came from a different book to the Holy Bible quoted from
during a two and a half-hour service, 15 miles north of Nashville in the
famous suburb where the Cash and wife June Carter had lived on the banks
of Old Hickory Lake.
That was when they were not in Jamaica or Carter Fold in the Clinch Mountains
of south west Virginia where the Carter Family had its roots.
Walden may have been victim of a subversive script writer or suffered
an eyesight blip at the critical moment.
Or he may have had a vision.
popular prophesier's first media job back in the sixties was at 3YB
in Warrnambool - HQ of the Victorian bible belt and one of the few
Australian stations to play Hank in its Fletcher Jones sponsored breakfast
country hour which coincided with the first milking of the day for
local dairy families.
Despite a country music boycott on many stations, which enjoyed Mal's
ascent from DJ to news reader, he might have recognised four times
wed Hank Williams Jr as the much taller, fitter and alive member of
the clan at the funeral.
publicist, Les Giesler ,
Cowboy Jack Clement & Dave Dawson
REVERED IN UNLUCKY RADIO COUNTRY
country artists, who expire before their time and enter honky tonk heaven,
the man in black earned the exposure he deserved in the unlucky radio
His life and death of respiratory failure, caused by complications from
diabetes, was celebrated on all commercial TV channels and AM and FM radio
stations, which never played his music, and in celebrity driven mainstream
Even community radio rock hosts, who couldn't discern Cash or Waylon Jennings
from their respective brothers Tommy, or be seen dead at a Cash or Willie
& Waylon gig, honoured the multi-media legend.
And critics who never attended Cash's local concerts, dating back to the
fifties when country wasn't cool, gave him posthumous praise.
Many of us were lucky enough to see him in the Festival Hall boxing stadium
in West Melbourne in an era with other tourists diverse as Conway Twitty,
Tom T Hall, Buck Owens, Slim Whitman, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marty Robbins,
Charley Pride, Dylan and the Everly Bros.
Cash, unlike many peers, toured here early in his career and returned
more frequently each decade when rock refugees swelled his country audiences.
In the late fifties and sixties hefty Cash airplay on Australian pop and
rock stations was accompanied by sporadic TV exposure.
By the time he returned here in the seventies and eighties his radio support
was strong on mainstream Melbourne country station 3UZ, 4KQ in Brisbane,
2UE and 2KY in Sydney and, to a lesser extent, ABC and regional radio
and a hard core of embryonic community stations.
Cash was a perfect vehicle for fans diverse as famed Windsor country singer
cartoonist Fred Negro and former VFL star and latter day TV celebrity
Negro, designer of the famed Nu Country guitar playing dingo mascot, worked
the man in black into Shonky Tonk songs as well as his InPress comic strips
and street press ads.
And Newman asked the hard questions and got the right answers in a feature
he wrote on Cash for the Herald Sun in 1991.
The duo kicked the doors of their Cash closets long before he was dumped
by Columbia in 1986 after a 28 year stint which followed his Sun debut
the record producer who called him a hero/ is the one who wouldn't answer
his calls/ and the ladies they sit over coffee/ bragging about sharing
his bed/ they didn't want his around when he was living/ but he's sure
a good friend when he's dead." - Silverstein.
credible discs on Mercury from Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town in 1987 and
scored here with The Highwaymen despite little airplay for self-penned
tunes and others by writers diverse as Robert Earl Keen, Jimmy Webb and
On the Mercury discs he cut originals and tunes by Tom Russell, Elvis
Costello, Michael Murphey, John Prine, J. J. Cale, Dave Loggins, Paul
McCartney, the late Harry Chapin and his old mates Tom T Hall and Cowboy
Equally importantly he have exposure to songs penned with son John Carter
Cash Jr and exhibited a satirical streak in original tunes such as A Back
Stage Pass on his 1990 album Boom Chick Boom.
"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash/ one night I had a back stage pass to a 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."
In just three minutes and 21 seconds Cash lampooned the vast galaxy of
buckle bunnies, starlets, snuff queens and grifters who swung from the
back stages ropes at a Willie gig.
Angels blocked to the traffic to the building/ in order for the beer truck
to come through/ and waiting in the wings to sing with Willie/ were hopeful
stars of flickering magnitude/ there was a singer Willie knew back in
the fifties/ who once paid him $50
for a song."
the source of that song when he toured here in 1994 with Willie, Waylon
and Kris Kristofferson.
"I wrote that for fun, I never intended to record it," Cash
told me in an interview at the Melbourne Hilton.
"Seven or eight years ago I was in Hollywood and I went to the Universal
Amphitheatre where Willie was playing. Everybody goes to Willie's show
and hangs out backstage, Hollywood especially. If you got backstage at
a Willie show you see everybody but Willie - because he's on his bus."
And, with superb song sequencing, Cash included his version of Family
Bible - which Willie sold to Paul Buskirk, Walter Breeland and Claude
Gray for $50 - as track 5.
Despite releasing duets disc Water From The Wells Of Home in 1988 with
a star studded cast - daughter Rosanne, son John, wife June & Carter
Family, Hank Jr, the Everly Bros, Waylon & Jessi Colter, Roy Acuff,
Hall, Glen Campbell and Paul & Linda McCartney, the legend was black
banned by commercial radio.
RAP RUBIN REVAMP
loomed as the nineties found Cash touring with The Highwaymen.
Cash was re-branded by rap metal producer Rick Rubin in 1994 for the jaded
rock market and became a fashion statement for cyber geeks weaned on rock,
rap, punk and transient pop.
But that didn't matter - Cash was finally cool again as he cut original
material and tunes by Jimmy Driftwood, Kristofferson, Loudon Wainwright
111, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and former step son-in-law Nick Lowe for
It leaped the moat of Americana, AAA radio and public and community stations
across the world.
So did 1996 disc Unchained where originals joined covers of tunes by Tom
Petty, Beck, Carter Family and I've Been Everywhere, penned by late Australian
writer Geoff Mack whose publishing was owned by Johnny Devlin.
Another Aussie pair Nick Cave and Mick Harvey climbed on board the royalties
train with their tune The Mercy Seat on 2002 disc Solitary Man.
It featured more Cash originals such as Country Trash, written in the
eighties but previously unrecorded. Cash said he wrote it with "a
little country pride in my childhood way of life."
Neil Diamond's title track was augmented with tunes by U2, Petty, Will
Oldham and veteran outlaw David Allan Coe epic Would You Lay With Me In
Field Of Stone - an embryonic hit for Tanya Tucker.
And there was Field Of Diamonds penned 15 years earlier by Cash and Jack
W Routh who was at one time his son-in-law and later step son-in-law
"Laying on our backs and looking at the stars at our house in Jamaica,
Jack Routh and I wrote 'Field Of Diamonds,'" Cash revealed.
"It was a song I always liked. It was recorded before, but not released.
The unlikely duet of June and Sheryl Crow sang along with me, and it really
felt comfortable. Sheryl came by on the last day of the sessions in Hollywood
to sing with me and play accordion on a couple of songs."
See Family Tree below for the Routh marital connections.
The fourth of the quartet was The Man Comes Around which featured tunes
diverse as Bridge Over Troubled Water, Desperado and Depeche Mode's Personal
The title track was about a dream he had, in which Queen Elizabeth II
said to him in Buckingham Palace, "Johnny Cash! You're like a thorn
tree in a whirlwind." He recognised the words as being Biblical and
found them in the Book of Job. From there, he began adding references
from the Book of Revelation until the song became a saga of apocalypse.
Rubin's revamp earned Cash a vast new army of fans, a swag of diverse
awards and equally importantly the desire to keep recording until shortly
before his death.
RETROSPECTIVES, TRIBUTES AND MORE
planning the book for September/ showing his plain country roots/ and
they're selling the right to the movie/ and the Hall of Fame's getting
his boots/ at the funeral somebody recited a poem/ that told how he suffered
and bled/ Nashville is rough on the livin'/ but she really speaks well
of the dead." - Silverstein.
retrospectives, sub genre albums and greatest hits have abounded since
he left Sun Records in the fifties.
But his 1988 quadruple heart bypass surgery opened the floodgates for
a surge that followed a return to pain killer dependence.
They also picked up pace when Cash was misdiagnosed with Shy-Drager -
a form of Parkinson's Disease in 1997.
Instead Cash suffered from autonomic neuropathy, complicated by bouts
of diabetes and pneumonia.
Among the curio re-releases were Patriot in 1990 with Cash's reading of
Marty Robbins Song OF The Patriot, Abe Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and
his own contrasting tunes Singing In Vietnam Talking Blues and Ragged
The Ballad Of Ira Hayes, Apache Tears and Custer were on the re-release
of 1964 disc Bitter Tears - Ballads Of The American Indian - and the Carter
Family collaborated on Blood, Sweat And Tears from 1963.
Columbia also released an innovative triple disc of Murder, Love and Faith
tunes in 1990.
And in 1997 Charley Records released Folsom Prison Blues - a 28 track
legacy of his Sun Years.
Many peers recorded Cash tribute discs and songs down the years.
The latest included Marty Stuart produced Kindred Spirit for Sony roots
country label Lucky Dog and sibling disc Dressed In Black for Dualtone.
Stuart, who joined Cash's band as a teenager, covered Cash's first recorded
song Hey Porter.
But the 36 track, The Essential from 2002, was first from the chute for
the recent TV sales splurge.
Cash spent most of his latter years recording, leaving more than 30 songs
yet to be released.
He planned to attend the MTV Video Music Awards shortly before his death,
but couldn't because of illness.
His video for Hurt won an award for cinematography at that show, and he
has four nominations at the Country Music Association Awards in November.
There have long been bootlegs of his recording with Dylan whom he defended
in a famous letter to the folk magazine Sing Out when Bob went electric.
"I don't remember what I said but I saw what he was doing as an artist,"
"Dylan said himself 'who is not busy being born is busy dying.' And
I saw Dylan as being busy being born, being born into a whole new way
of doing his music a different way. A lot of people just didn't like it.
As it turned out, Dylan continued doing his music way, and I respect that
in an artist."
surprise that tribute concerts, which peaked in recent years New York
and Nashville, will be accompanied by local artists frocking up tribute
gigs in Melbourne, Sydney, Warrnambool and up and down the Australian
coastal cities with strong country music enclaves.
See our gig guide for the details.
TV AND MOVIES
In June 1969
the Nashville filmed Johnny Cash Show debuted on ABC-TV and lasted 88
The diverse musical guests included Bob Dylan that led to Cash singing
with him on his 1969 album Nashville Skyline for which he wrote the liner
Cash also hooked up that year with former Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein
who wrote his smash hit A Boy Named Sue and its sequel Son Of A Boy Named
That was long after Cash had a minor role in the Clint Eastwood/Eric Fleming
western series Rawhide.
In 1961 he played a psychopath in Door To Door, also known as Five Minutes
And the singer, who was heavily influenced by one time touring partner
Billy Graham, made the 1973 movie Gospel Road - a musical anthology of
the life of Jesus.
Cash had bigger roles with Kirk Douglas in A Gunfight (1972), The Pride
Of Jesse Hallam (1980), Murder In Coweto County (1983), The Baron And
The Kid (1984,) The Last Days Of Frank and Jesse (1986).
He also appeared in the remake of Stage Coach and in episodes of Columbo
and Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman.
"The producer of Stage Coach wanted a movie with all four members
of the Highwaymen," Cash told me in an interview at the Melbourne
Hilton on July 4, 1994, when he toured with The Highwaymen.
"The roles called for a lot of other actors and actresses as well.
David Allan Coe and John Schneider had cameo roles."
Cash's 1990 album Mystery Of Life also included a song he wrote for another
"There was a new screen play written on the old John Wayne movie
Angel And The Badman for me to do the lead role," Cash added.
"It was the role that John Wayne did in the old movie. I just like
the story so I wrote the song Angel And The Bad Man about the movie. I
thought it was a nice story."
Tennessee country star Mark Collie played a young trouble torn Cash in
award winning short film I Still Miss Someone in 1999.
There were a swag of autobiographies and biographies which were preceded
by his own novel Man In White - a fictional account of the life of Paul
FAMILY TREE - A BRANCH OR TWO
at Kingsland, Arkansas, on February, 26, 1932, grew up on a cotton farm
in Dyess, Tennessee, where he lost his elder brother Jack at 12 in a chain
At 18 he moved to Detroit where he swept floors in a car factory before
he made the most of a four year U.S. Air Force stint in Germany by writing
songs including Folsom Prison Blues.
On his return he sired four children with first wife Vivien Liberto in
Memphis and was a margarine salesman before singing gospel songs he learned
from his mother Carrie.
Cash and Vivien produced four daughters - Tara, Kathy, Rosanne and Cindy.
Chart topper Rosanne became the second wife of Houston born singer-songwriter
and producer Rodney Crowell for 12 years.
That was before she headed north to New York City and wed producer-songwriter
John Leventhal, a song writing partner of Crowell.
Crowell wasn't alone long - he wed another country singer Claudia Church
who he met and produced after she appeared in a video for one of his songs.
Johnny Cash became the third husband of recently deceased June Carter
Cash in 1968 - she rescued him from a dope dependency which flared on
The couple scored a hit with a duet of Jackson in 1967 after Cash topped
charts in 1963 with Ring Of Fire, penned by June and Merle Kilgore who
wrote Wolverton Mountain with its singer Claude King.
AND CASH FAMILY TREE BRANCHES OUT
Carter Family tree was equally as intriguing and popular as its music.
June Carter, who died at 73 at 5.04 p m on May 15, was the youngest of
three daughters of Maybelle Addington and Ezra Carter who wed in 1915.
Maybelle's cousin Sara Dougherty later wed Alvin P Carter in 1926 and
they produced a son and two daughters.
The Carter Family began performing in 1927 and recorded about 250 songs
before the band broke up in 1943, 12 years after A. P and Sara divorced.
Mother Maybelle took June and her sisters Helen and Anita on the road
as the Second Carter Family and they performed on the Grand Ole Opry from
1950-67 until Maybelle retired.
June Carter wed country singer Carl Smith, now 76, in 1952 and gave birth
to daughter Carlene before they divorced and Carl married another singer
Goldie Hill in 1957.
June then wed Rip Nix and gave birth to another daughter Rozanne, not
to be confused with Cash's daughter Rosanne.
June rescued Cash from the throes of divorce and drug dependency when
she accepted his marriage invite on stage at a concert in London, Ontario,
in February of 1968.
The Carter sisters joined the Cash touring show that first brought them
here with him in 1971 and 1973.
That was shortly after June gave the man in black a son - John Carter
Cash Jr - in 1970.
Unfortunately John Jr went into detox shortly after an Australian tour
when he went on a binge at the South Yarra Saloon.
But he recovered to produce his mother's comeback album, Press On, in
1999 which first appeared on Small Hairy Dog Records before being picked
up by Dualtone.
The singer, who dodged a bullet fired by Hank Williams in a 1952 fracas
with his first ex wife Audrey, cut her only previous solo album Appalachian
Pride for Columbia in 1976.
But she posthumously released finished another album Wildwood Flower on
September 9 - a Carter Family tribute disc is also in the works.
June published her own autobiography Among My Klediments in 1979 and studied
acting in New York in the fifties with James Dean and Robert Duvall.
She later appeared in the Gunsmoke TV series and 1958 movie Country Music
Holiday before playing Duvall's mother in The Apostle which also featured
Billy Joe Shaver in a major role.
Sister Helen died at 70 on June 2, 1998, and Anita died at 66 on July,
A Kneeling Drunkard's Plea, written with Anita and Helen when she was
18, was cut by Cash on his 1996 Unchained album.
CARTER AND FAMILY TRADITION
It was long
after June's daughter Carlene wed Joe Simpkins at 15 and gave birth to
a daughter Tiffany.
Carlene then wed House Of Cash songwriter Jack Routh at 18 and a son,
John Jackson Routh, was born.
After that marriage ended Carlene dated Crowell, playing in Emmylou Harris's
Hot Band but yet to meet her stepsister Rosanne.
By the time Carlene wed English rocker Nick Lowe at 23 another of her
four stepsisters, Cindy Cash, had married Routh, enabling him to be the
second husband of both singing step siblings.
"Back then in Tennessee you got married to the guy you slept with,"
Carter later explained, "people didn't date. They just got married.
Then it dawned on me I didn't have to marry every boy I liked."
Carlene wrote the song Too Bad About Sandy about custody proceedings when
Routh won custody of their son while married to Cindy.
At this stage Routh was legally also his son's step uncle.
But Cindy, who toured here in 1981 with her dad's band, then married singer-songwriter
Marty Stuart who was also in the Cash road band.
But Cindy split with Stuart, now 45, who became the fourth singing spouse
of Indiana country singer Connie Smith, 17 years his senior at 62.
"Marty joined by band as a teenager and married my daughter Cindy
after they toured Australia with me," Cash told me.
"He was the one who brought us the Jimmy Webb song The Highwaymen
to the session when we were looking for songs to record. He's a hot rising
artist and he's going to do all right. He started out at 13 playing mandolin
with Lester Flatt. Then as a teenager he started playing guitar with me."
Meanwhile Carlene, whose stormy marriage with Lowe ended in the eighties,
hooked up with Howie Epstein of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers who acted out
their name by dying of a heroin overdose at 47 on February 23, 2003.
CASH AND DOPE
surprised many who didn't expect to survive the fifties when he first
toured here on a Lee Gordon package tour.
He wrecked cars, one of which he jumped from, before it plunged from a
500 metre cliff.
Another caught on fire while he was driving and earned him a $120,000
bill for damage caused to a forest in Ventura Country in California.
But there was humour beneath the manic mood swings which peaked at the
Grand Ole Opry in 1965 when he mistimed a lunge at the microphone.
He then dragged it along the front of the stage, smashing all the foot
"There were 52 lights, and I wanted to break all 52, which I did,"
Cash revealed about the night which ended when he crashed his car into
a tree and was banned from the Opry.
His pill popping climaxed on October 4, 1965, when he was busted at El
Paso airport on his way back from Juarez with 668 amphetamine tablets
and 475 tranquiliser tablets in a sock in his guitar case.
Cash pleaded guilty and was fined $1,000 and scored a 30 days suspended
Although Cash had over night jail spells on five occasions he never served
a long sentence.
In 1966 he was thrown in jail overnight in Starkville, Mississippi, for
roaming the streets at 2 am and picking wild flowers.
He was also locked up briefly in Georgia and Carson City, Nevada.
But not even June could save Cash in 1978 when he suffered three broken
ribs in an attack by a widower ostrich in a paddock stocked with wild
He became hooked on pain killers in his recovery - on another occasion
in 1983 he suffered the same fate after falling and smashing a knee cap.
And again after his dentist accidentally broke his law during dental surgery
in 1990 and a steel plate was inserted in 1992.
years from 1955 and subsequent recording career has been well documented
in the mainstream media.
They are also graphically depicted in the local AV Channel DVD releases
Johnny Cash - The Anthology and Good Rockin' Tonight which we will be
giving away on Nu Country TV and this web page.
A Sun highlight is the pivotal role of producer and bon vivant Cowboy
Jack Clement who wrote classic Cash comedy songs.
Clement toured here in 1981 as Cash's entree act after releasing a solo
That was before Cash and touring partner Jennings had quadruple heart
by-pass surgery in the same month late in 1988 at the same Nashville Baptist
Clement was also a prolific writer - he wrote 'It'll Be Me' (the flip
side of Jerry Lee Lewis's Sun smash 'Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On' and
a swag of hits for Cash.
He wrote and produced 'Ballad Of A Teenage Queen', 'Guess Things Happened
That Way,' 'Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart,' 'Egg Sucking Dog,'
'I Got A Thing About Trains', 'The One On The Right Is On The Left' and
'Everybody Loves A Nut' for Cash.
1,000 people attended the private two-and-a-half-hour service at First
Baptist Church of Hendersonville, about 15 miles north of Nashville where
Cash mourned the death of June in May.
"I can almost live in a world without Johnny Cash because he will
always be with us," said Cash's daughter Rosanne Cash. "I cannot
begin to imagine a world without Daddy."
Among the celebrities attending were Vince Gill, Hank Williams Jr., Travis
Tritt, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Dunn, Statler
Brothers and Oak Ridge Boys.
Others included rock-rapper Kid Rock, actress Jane Seymour and former
Vice President Al Gore, a native of Tennessee.
Kristofferson called Cash "Abraham Lincoln with a wild side"
- a man always willing to champion the voiceless and downtrodden, "whose
work in life has been an inspiration and salvation to so many people around
the world. He represented the best of America; we're not going to see
his like again."
The Rev. Franklin Graham - son of the Rev. Billy Graham - called Cash
"a good man who also struggled with many challenges in his life.
He was a deeply religious man."
Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow sang the gospel hymn, The Old Rugged Cross
and Dylan's Every Grain of Sand.
The Man In Black, renowned for his colour coding in honour of the poor
and oppressed, was buried in a black coffin with silver handles.
As the service came to end, country singer Larry Gatlin addressed his
own son, Joshua Cash Gatlin, from the pulpit: "Son, this man fed
your mama and me when we couldn't afford food. He paid rent for us when
we couldn't pay rent."
Gatlin, Marty Stuart and producer Randy Scruggs were among the active
Honorary pallbearers included Kristofferson, Rubin, Rodney Crowell and
Willie Nelson, Marshall Grant, who played bass in Cash's original band,
and younger brother Tommy Cash.
It was, Cash would agree, like the session he vividly described to this
writer in his 1994 interview.
Cash recalled the recording of former Chicago mailman and prolific writer
John Prine's The Hobo Song for his 1990 Mercury album The Mystery Of Life.
"Every hobo in town came and sang on that session," Cash drawled,
"Jack Clement drug everybody in off the street and out of the garden,
the yard, the basement everywhere."
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