The Man In Black: 20 Things You Never Knew About Johnny Cash

A collection of 20 little-known facts about one of the true titans of country music.

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Johnny Cash - Photo: Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo: Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

To honor the memory of the Man In Black, born on February 26, 1932, a collection of 20 things you never knew about Johnny Cash, one of the true titans of country music.

Johnny’s mother bought him a guitar for his tenth birthday

The day after the funeral of Johnny’s older brother Jack, the Cash family were back in the fields, picking cotton for ten hours

At 21, on a trip to Paris while in the Air Force, Johnny visited the Eiffel Tower and viewed the Mona Lisa

In September 1954, Elvis Presley performed at the opening of Katz Drug Store in Memphis. Johnny Cash was in the audience. Within a few months, he became Elvis’ labelmate at Sun Records

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“Ring Of Fire” was first recorded by Anita Carter, sister of Johnny’s future wife June – and June wrote it with Merle Kilgore, who was the best man at their wedding

Johnny’s film acting debut, in 1961’s Five Minutes To Live, included a third movie appearance by seven-year-old Ronnie Howard. Later he played Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham in Happy Days before becoming a hugely successful film director

Shel Silverstein, who wrote Johnny’s smash hit “A Boy Named Sue,” later wrote a sequel, lightheartedly looking at the story from the parental point of view and titled “The Father Of A Boy Named Sue”

Johnny and June’s signature hit “Jackson” was officially written by Billy Edd Wheeler and German-American actress Gaby Wheeler. But it was actually co-penned by Billy Edd and the prolific Jerry Leiber, one half of the Leiber & Stoller team, who was married to Gaby at the time and used his wife’s name as a pseudonym

Cash’s second and final theatrical movie release as an actor, 1971’s A Gunfight, received $2 million of financing from the Jicarilla Apache tribe of New Mexico, to keep production in the US. The tribe are renowned for their basket-weaving and beadwork

Johnny Cash - Hurt

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The clip of Cash saying, “You stay the hell away from me, you hear?” featured at 1’46” into the award-winning video for his version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” comes from the aforementioned movie A Gunfight

A voracious reader, Cash consumed the works of James Joyce and Dylan Thomas, and told writer Philip Norman in 1971 that he was preparing to read Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples Vols 1-4

What did Johnny have in common with Donny Osmond, David Bowie, Wilson Pickett, the Righteous Brothers, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, B. Bumble and the Stingers, and Mott The Hoople? They, and dozens of other stars, were all namechecked in studio band Reunion’s 1974 US Top 10 hit “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)”

On March 20, 1976, Johnny and June returned to his birthplace of Kingsland, Arkansas, then he performed a free concert in nearby Rison for a crowd estimated at 12,000. The population of Kingsland at the 2010 US census was 447

Cash was friendly with all the US presidents from Richard Nixon onwards, but especially with Jimmy Carter, who was distantly related to his wife June Carter Cash

In 1981, Johnny was nearly killed when an ostrich attacked him in the animal park he’d established behind the House of Cash offices. He broke a total of five ribs and cut his stomach open, was hospitalized, and became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed

In the 80s, Cash found love letters written to June, during a short love affair, by Elvis Presley. He destroyed them

In an interview with Larry King, Cash revealed that his favorite country music artist was Dwight Yoakam

The first gold disc award received by Johnny Cash for a regular studio album arrived in April 2003, just five months before his death, for American IV: The Man Comes Around

Johnny Cash - Ain't No Grave

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“Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down),” cut by Cash at the suggestion of producer Rick Rubin for their final album collaboration American VI: Ain’t No Grave, was written and first recorded by “Brother” Claude Ely. He was the first Pentecostal Holiness preacher to be signed to a major contract to record sacred music and songs

In 2015, the Ensworth School in Nashville became the first high school to mount a production of Ring Of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical Show. Johnny’s granddaughter was a member of the cast

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Johnny Cash Best Of playlist.




  1. Humble Harry Marchello

    February 27, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    Hello… I’m HUMBLE HARRY… (Intro to Folsom Prison Blues) Before I Sing Hurt, I Tell The Crowd… “I KNOW WHY HANK TOOK THOSE PILLS!”

  2. Russell

    March 1, 2018 at 3:24 am

    His album with Hurt and When The Man Comes Around was absolutely his best and I have been listening to Johnny Cash since 1063

    • jamespcrumlish

      February 26, 2019 at 8:29 pm

      Wow…the Battle of HASTINGS wouldn’t happen for another 3. Years

  3. Tom Toxic

    September 13, 2018 at 8:16 am

    You wrote: “…Cash’s second and final theatrical movie release as an actor…” – what about “Stagecoach”? What about “Frank & Jesse James”, “Murder in Coweta County” and “The Pride of Jesse Hallam”?

  4. Bigwavedave

    September 13, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    No mention of his place in Jamaica over by Montego Bay?

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