Top 40 Johnny Cash Moments

Johnny Cash
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Johnny Cash had such a long and varied career which included music, movies, and tv. In the five decades of his career there were many milestones, and it was hard to narrow it down to just 40. I started with Top 10, and said to myself, there is no way I can take a career of this length and sum it up into 10 big moments. So, I increased it to 20, but even that was insufficient. This isn't everything, of course, but I believe this includes some of the most important things that happened to him in his lifetime.


  1. It all started with his birth on February 6, 1932. He was born J.R. Cash (no first or middle name) to parents Ray and Carrie Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas. He is the fourth of five children. His brothers were Roy, Jack, and Tommy, and his sisters were Reba and Joann. As a child, gospel songs taught to him by his mother is a major influence on him.
  2. His mother Carrie bought him a guitar for his 10th birthday in 1942.
  3. Another major event that shaped his life was the accidental death of his older brother, Jack, in a farm accident in 1944. On Jack's gravestone are the words "Meet Me In Heaven," which would later become the title of one of Johnny's songs.
  4. After high school graduation in 1950, Johnny enlisted in the Air Force, and was stationed in Germany, where he wrote daily to Vivian Liberto.
  5. After being honorably discharged in the Summer of 1954, John moves to Memphis and takes a job selling appliances door-to-door. This was a job arranged by his brother Roy, who worked at the local Chevrolet dealer. He introduces John to two of the mechanics at the garage, Luther Monroe Perkins and Marshall Grant, both guitar-pickers, and together with steel guitarist A.W. 'Red' Kernodle, they form the Tennessee Three. By the end of the year, Kernodle left the band, and John renamed the group the Tennessee Two, and they are able to audition for Sam Phillips of Sun Records, who tells them to drop the Gospel, and stick to Country and Western music.
  1. John marries Vivian Liberto on August 7th of 1954.
  2. In 1955, Sam Phillips renames J.R. Johnny Cash, and he along with the Tennessee Two record "Hey Porter," and "Cry, Cry, Cry," which becomes John's first single. That same year Vivian gives birth to Johnny's first daughter, Rosanne. By the end of the year, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two release "Folsom Prison Blues," which coincides with their debut.
  1. "I Walk the Line" becomes Johnny's first No. 1 hit in 1956.
  2. In 1956, Johnny's second daughter, Kathleen is born.
  3. Johnny's first album is released in 1957, called .
  4. In 1957, Johnny realizes a dream to play on the Grand Ole Opry, eventually landing a regular spot, requiring him to return to Nashville each Saturday night for a performance.
  5. In 1957, Johnny's third daughter, Cindy is born.
  6. In 1958, his Sun contract ends and he signs with Columbia records, and relocates to Los Angeles.
  7. In 1960, Johnny performs his first free concert at San Quentin, with 22-year-old inmate Merle Haggard in the audience.
  8. The Carter Family joins the Johnny Cash road show in 1961.
  9. In 1961, Johnny's fourth daughter, Tara is born.
  10. On January 11, 1964, Billboard debuts the new Hot Country Albums chart, where Johnny's album is listed at No. 1, where it remains for a total of 14 weeks. It becomes his first RIAA gold album.
  11. It was on October 5, 1965 that Johnny Cash was arrested returning from Mexico with possession of 668 Dexedrine and 475 Equanil pills found in his guitar case. He receives a 30-day suspended jail term and $1,000 fine. It was shortly after this incident that Johnny made an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry stoned, and in anger over a faulty microphone stand, takes the stand and drags it across the footlights on the stage. The Opry promptly informs him they won't be needing his services any longer.
  1. As his drug use escalates in 1965, Vivian divorces him, and he moves back to Nashville. June Carter steps in and leads him back to Christianity, and helps him kick the drug habit.
  2.  In 1968, Columbia records the Folsom Prison concert.
  3. Johnny and June finally wed on March 1, 1968.

  4. In 1969, the San Quentin Prison concert is recorded by Columbia.John Carter Cash is born in 1970. His only son, and child with June.

  5. In June that year, the Johnny Cash Show premieres on ABC-TV, with special guest Bob Dylan.

  6. 1969 was Johnny Cash's greatest year, as he sold over six-and-a-half million records, which was more than any other artist at that time had sold in one year

  7. On April 17th 1970, Johnny Cash is invited to the White House to perform for President Nixon.

  8. In 1975, Johnny completes his autobiography, The Man In Black. The book is now out of print.

  1. In 1976 "One Piece at a Time" becomes Johnny's last No. 1 record.

  2. In 1977, Johnny receives the Award of Merit at the 4th annual American Music Awards.

  3. In 1980, Johnny is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. At age 48, he is the youngest living inductee.

  4. In 1985, Johnny joins Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson as the Highwaymen, and release their first album together, called Highwayman.

  5. Also in 1985, Johnny publishes Man In White, a novel about the life of Paul the Apostle.

  6. In 1986, Columbia drops Johnny Cash from the label.

  7. In 1990, Johnny receives the Academy of Country Music's Pioneer Award.

  8. In 1992, Johnny is inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, becoming the only person ever inducted in R&R, Country and Songwriters Halls of Fame. He also receives the Grammy Legend Award.

  9. In 1993, Johnny signs with American Recordings, introducing a whole new generation to his music. His first album is entitled American Recordings.

  10. In 1996, Johnny is honored at the annual Kennedy Center Awards.

  11. In 1997, Johnny releases his second story of his life, called Cash: An Autobiography.

  12. In 2000, Johnny receives the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which says he "truly one of the most influential figures in country music, transcends both generations and musical genres."

  13. Johnny's beloved soulmate, June Carter passes away on March 15, 2003.

  14. Nearly four months later, on September 12, 2003, Johnny succumbs at Baptist Hospital of complications from diabetes


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Your Citation
Fabian, Shelly. "Top 40 Johnny Cash Moments." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2016, Fabian, Shelly. (2016, March 7). Top 40 Johnny Cash Moments. Retrieved from Fabian, Shelly. "Top 40 Johnny Cash Moments." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 22, 2017).