Remembering Johnny Cash
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. –Johnny Cash
It was like any other morning routine at the time I hit the alarm clock and headed to my shower. I was living in a tiny studio apartment mill house that had one huge room, a kitchen and a bath room. I was newly married man at the time and had a one year old son to occupy my tiny living space. It wasn’t much but it was cheap and we never done without anything we needed. I had a radio in my bath room which I would listen to every morning to try getting the day going. I got the water running and turned on the radio to hear the news that John Ritter had passed away. As I took a shower trying make a game plan for the day for I had to be at work in a hour. I had a pretty good job working at a Walt Disney warehouse. It took good care of my rent and my family. But, like anyone a job is a job and you never want to go to work. I got out the shower brushed my teeth and walked out to my 93 Chevy Lumina without waking my family. The sun wasn’t quite up yet as I turned the key on the ignition and the radio was playing another one of those loud “KIA of Greer!” commercials that wanted me to put my hard earned money down on a brand new vehicle. I turned the volume down for it seemed they would amp up just for those commercials alone. I think it was symbolical or something. I cut the lights on and a quick wiper swipe removed the morning dew and up the hill I went on my way to work. The sun was now slowly peaking on the horizon as I was now fully awake. I turned back up the volume on the radio and decided to go get some breakfast at Hardees. My small home town has two red lights, a train track, a gas station, and Hardees. Upon going over the railroad tracks and a Ronnie Milsap song ending is when I heard the news. “Country Music Legend Johnny Cash has died”.
It was that moment in time as I drove over train tracks is a time that I shall never forget. I could remember the birth of my son, my first day of school, fishing with my papa, and now this. See, you got to understand I was a huge Cash fan. More than normal I would say and it begin early in life and not in a its cool to like him hipster sort of way. My Uncle was considered a rebel, free spirit, and a rambling soul who always donned a cowboy hat and drove beat up trucks with campers all over any interstate or back road the United States had to offer. At seven years old I knew my Uncle Tom was going to be a huge influence in my life. He loved music that spoke truth and was outspoken. His tape collection in his truck was proof of that. He bought me the Johnny Cash children’s album on record once and I got to take it to school once for a party. I was laughed at by the whole class. I though everyone knew Johnny Cash and I just didn’t know any better. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the only other album brought that day and mine was placed back in the cubble hole the rest of the day just a lonely as a motel bible. On my road I grew up it was half paved and half dirt road and when you got to the dirt road part of it there was a house that had a black mail box with white letters that said “CASH”. It looked identical to the American Recording year’s logo. Fast forward years to many years later I was attending this small country church regularly and became good friends with Bill Guy who was the preacher. He was a man of god and preached from the bible. I had gotten to know him really well and he would even drop by my small apartment with his wife time to time to talk. I learned he was the first cousin of Johnny Cash. He would tell me all kinds of stories of him that I never knew about. They were distant cousins and he did have photos of them together. He ended being the preacher who married me and my wife at the time.
I have heard this all the time and I stand behind it but if God had a voice it would be Johnny Cash’s. So, much spawned off of his music for me such as other artists, life lessons, and faith, He wasn’t the best singer but he certainly was the one who always had the hairs of my arms standing. I don’t know of anyone else who done that. His guitar picking style was always just as recognizable as his voice and sounded like a train. I love his songs of murder as much as I do his gospel takes. He also had a humor to him as well that seem to blend well with all the subject matter he would sing about. When he sung everything stood still to me and every breath and fiber of his being got my attention. I had a huge collection of everything I could find on Johnny Cash far as albums, books, magazines, pictures and what have you. I guess could say I was a big fan.
September 12 2003 and I knew it wasn’t a dream for the sun was now fully up and I was in the line of the drive thru waiting to place my order for my breakfast. I didn’t want to believe it and had a hard time accepting it. I pulled out the parking lot of the Hardees and instead of heading into work I drove to a local pay phone to call in to work. I couldn’t work today this news floored me and I need to grieve. I drove home and came in the house where my wife and son were still sounding asleep. Again we had a tiny one room that we split one side was a living room and the bed was on the other side but it was one big open room. I turned on the television to see if there was anything on about his passing. I saw quite a bit so I grasped a blank VHS tape and proceeded to record any and everything I could on his passing. My wife woke up and asked why I wasn’t at work and I for first time in my life got choked up and said “Johnny Cash has died!”. She thought I was joking and laughed at me for laying out of work for it. Now, you know why she is an ex-wife. So, I spend the whole day recording stuff and listening to everything from the prison albums, the kid album to his gospel takes.
Now, it’s been 12 years ago since that day he became Saint Johnny and his impact is just as mean fully as it was since my Uncle Tom gave me the children’s album. The spirit and message is very much alive today. It will out live the test of time.