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According to Amazon there is going to be a new release on May, 12 in the US. According to the UK version of Amazon it will be released on April, 27. It's a previously unreleased concert that Cash did in 1976 in Wheeling, West Virgina on the Jamboree USA show at the Capitol Music Hall. It was broadcast on WWVA in Wheeling. 

The announced tracklist looks like this (we added more info to it):

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Posted by on in Latest news

We've just added a new forum, which replaces the bootleg forum. Yes, you can still find bootlegs on the forum, but we'll be adding new links for the downloads because a lot of external sites, where the downloads were stored, are taken down. So, are you in search of something? Don't hesitate to ask, there's always someone ready to help.

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Posted by on in His Life

We've just added a new section 'His Life'. In this section we'll post about his life, per decade. The first to follow are his childhood years. For now, this is a short overview of his life.


Born February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, Johnny Cash was born J.R. Cash, one of seven children belonging to Ray and Carrie Rivers Cash. When John was 3 years old, his father took advantage of a new Roosevelt farm program and moved his young family to Dyess Colony in northeast Arkansas. There the Cash family farmed 20 acres of cotton and other seasonal crops, and young John worked alongside his parents and siblings in the fields. Music was an integral part of everyday life in the Cash household. John soaked up a variety of musical influences ranging from his mother's folk songs and hymns to the work songs from the fields and nearby railroad yards. He absorbed these sounds like sponge absorbs water. In later years Cash would draw from his life in Arkansas for inspiration: "Pickin' Time," "Five Feet High and Rising" and "Look at Them Beans" are all reflections on Cash's early life.


Though throughout his life filled with sorrow and tragedy, the first one happened when he was still a young boy.On May 12th, 1944, young Johnny (still known as J.R.) had planned to go fishing, but his older brother Jack had to work at the high-school agricultural shop, where he would cut oak trees into fence posts. After a long time of begging for him to quit and go fishing, Jack told J.R. to go fishing and that he would meet him later.  While he was fishing, Jack had fallen on the table saw that jammed and caught his clothes when he tried to fix it. Johnny recalled that morning before they had left, their mother saying "Jack, you seem like you don't feel you should go." And then him replying with "I don't. I feel like something is going to happen". That last conversation had ended with her telling him not to go if he didn't feel right, and his only answer being, "No. I've got to do it. We've got to have the money."  But he had risked his life for three dollars, and their father picked J.R. up in the preacher's car, and took him to the smokehouse by there home and showed him Jack's bloody clothes, and told him what happened, and then they went to the hospital. When they arrived they had thought Jack would live, because he was reading mail and laughing, but the Friday after that, he took a turn for the worse and his final words to his family were, "They're so's so wonderful, and what a beautiful place it is that I am going."


Cash remained in Dyess Colony until his graduation from high school in 1950. As a young man he set off for Detroit in search of work. He ended up in Pontiac, Mich., and took work in an automotive plant. His tenure in the North Country was short-lived and Cash soon enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After basic training in Texas (where he met first wife Vivian Liberto), he was shipped to Landsberg, Germany. While in the service Cash organized his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians. After his discharge in 1954, Cash returned stateside and married Liberto. He and his new bride soon settled in Memphis where Cash worked a variety of jobs -- including that of appliance salesman -- while trying to break into the music business.


In 1954, Cash auditioned as solo artist for Sam Phillips' Sun Records. He entertained hopes of recording gospel music for the label, but Phillips immediately nixed that idea. By the following spring, though, Cash was in the Sun Studios to record with his band The Tennessee Three. The original group consisted of guitarist Luther Perkins, bass player Marshall Grant and Red Kernodle on pedal steel. Kernodle bailed out of the session and Cash's first release for the label, "Hey Porter" had a sparse, but highly effective instrumental accompaniment. Though an impressive single, the song failed to chart. Cash's follow-up release for Sun, however, fared substantially better. "Cry, Cry, Cry" managed to crack Billboard's Top 20, peaking at No. 14. A long succession of chart singles followed. "So Doggone Lonesome" and "Folsom Prison Blues" both broke into the trade publication's Top 10. But Cash's fourth chart single proved to be his career song. "I Walk the Line" shot to Billboard's No. 1 position and remained on the record charts for an incredible 43 weeks, ultimately selling over 2 million copies.In 1956, he realized a longtime dream when he was invited to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. By 1957 Cash had racked up an impressive string of hits and was working more than 200 dates a year.


The following year he switched to Columbia Records in search of more artistic freedom. He still had aspirations of making gospel records and felt he had a better chance of accomplishing this goal at another label. Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and into the 1960s, Cash continued to produce remarkable records and charted consistently. "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "I Got Stripes," "Ring of Fire," "Understand Your Man" and "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" all hit the upper registers of the record charts. Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and other top-rated network programs followed. In the early 1960s, concept albums such as Bitter Tears and Ballads of the True West made him a favorite among the folk music crowd, culminating in an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. But all was not well. Cash was spinning out of control. His marriage was collapsing and divorce seemed inevitable. Too, his grueling tour schedule (which was now up to 300 shows a year) had taken its toll. Cash became dependent on narcotics to keep up the hectic pace.


By the mid-1960s, Cash was a wreck and it began to impact his career. By 1967, though, Cash managed to overcome his addiction with the help of his singing partner June Carter and her family. In 1968, he and Carter were married and his career experienced a renaissance. Throughout the remainder of the decade and into the 1970s, Cash was at the top of his game. A pair of live recordings made at Folsom Prison and San Quentin both went gold and a passel of awards followed including the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist awards in 1969. The final payoff though, was a network television spot. Premiering in 1969, The Johnny Cash Show aired on ABC. Taped at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the show featured an eclectic mix of guests ranging from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Louis Armstrong and Merle Haggard. Through his selection of guests, Cash helped bridge the generation gap and break down musical barriers. He also used the show as a forum to discuss and raise the country's collective consciousness about social issues of the day such as the plight of the Native Americans, prison reform and the conflict in Vietnam. The show ceased production in 1971, but Cash continued to host numerous specials for several years.


In 1980, at the age of 48, Johnny Cash became the youngest living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bestowed its honor on him in 1995, thus making him one of a handful of country artists in both organizations. In 1985, Cash joined friends Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson to form The Highwaymen. The supergroup released three albums between 1985 and 1995, scoring a No. 1 hit with the single "Highwayman" from their first album, The Highwaymen. Although battling serious health problems in the late 1990s, Cash entered a professional renaissance after signing with rap producer Rick Rubin's American record label. American Recordings, released in 1994, won a Grammy for best contemporary folk album. The follow-up, 1996's Unchained, earned the Grammy for best country album in 1997. His 2000 release American III: Solitary Man, included a cover of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," which won Cash a Grammy for best male country vocal performance in 2001. In 2002, Cash released American IV: The Man Comes Around which included the Nine Inch Nails single "Hurt." Cash earned three CMA awards in 2003, and the acclaimed video for "Hurt" won an MTV award and a Grammy.


After losing his wife June Carter Cash unexpectedly in May 2003, Johnny Cash passed away Sept. 12, 2003 at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. from complications from diabetes. In 2005, a film version of his early romance with Carter, titled Walk the Line, was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture. A single-disc compilation titled "The Legend of Johnny Cash" was also released in 2005 and went on to sell more than two million copies. The following year, Lost Highway released the fifth installment of his American recordings, "American V: A Hundred Highways", featuring his last sessions with Rubin.  In 2010, American VI: Ain't No Grave was released as the finale of the American series.  The title song, "Ain't No Grave," was converted into a fan-made music video due to the Johnny Cash Project, and the video was nominated for a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video in 2010. 


Source: (with corrections by JCinfocenter)




Given name: 
J.R. Cash is the name on Johnny's birth certificate. Johnny's parents could agree only on initials for their third son.


Name in Air Force:
John R. Cash


Birth date: 
February 26, 1932


Kingsland, Arkansas. There is a statue of Johnny in a park.


6 feet 2 inches


Vivian Liberto, married August 7th, 1954


Rosanne Cash, Kathy Cash-Tittle, Cindy Cash and Tara Cash Schwoebel

1. Vivian Liberto
2. June Carter, married March 1, 1968
John Carter Cash; 2 stepdaughters, Carlene and Rosey Carter.


Dyess High school, Dyess Arkansas


Air Force 1950-1954, stationed in Germany, discharged with rank of staff sergeant.


Previous jobs: 
Sold appliances door-to-door in Memphis, Tennessee; worked at a GM assembly plant in Pontiac, Michigan and an Arkansas oleomargarine plant.


First musical performance: 
In a talent show at age 17, won $5.


First guitar:
Given by his Mom


First bought guitar:
Bought in Germany, paid $5.


First royalty check: 


Early bands: 
The Landsberg Barbarians, The Tennessee Two and then The Tennessee Three.


Hank Snow, Cowboy Copas, Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, The Carter Family, The Louvin Brothers, Ernest Tubb.


Only star, living or dead, inducted into these four halls of fame: 
Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), Songwriters Hall of Fame (1989), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992) and Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2011).


Man in Black,  CASH: The Autobiography (see our books section)


Fishing, photography, coin collecting, reading, walking in the woods, shopping.


Charities and concerns: 
Prison reform; Native American rights, Nashville Symphony; burn research center at Vanderbilt University Hospital; American Cancer Society; Vietnam veterans.


Grand Children:
(Rosanne Cash): Carrie, Hannah, Chelsea, Jake (Kathy Cash-Tittle): Thomas, Dustin, Kacy (Cindy Cash): Jessica (Tara Cash): Aren, Alex (John Carter Cash): Anna Maybelle, Joseph John, Jack Ezra (Carlene Carter): Tiffany, John


Great-Grand Children: 
(Thomas): Brennen, Kade,


Godfather of: 
All Roy Orbison's Boys, including Wesley, Shooter Jennings and sons of John Rollins and Armando Bisceglia.



  1. Son-in-law Jimmy Tittle was the only man Cash ever hired in his band that was taller than him.
  2. Johnny made a donation to the Bunny Bundle campaign in London in 1966, and stayed up all night after the show listening to the radio and called in to pledge $1,000.00. No one believed it was really him after the call, so he called back and doubled the pledge. It was a huge donation at the time.
  3. Was given the nickname "Captian" by David Ferguson (Cash's engineer for over 20 years).
  4. Johnny produced, scored, and narrated his film, "The Gospel Road".
  5. Had a fear of snakes and flying.
  6. Though "Like the 309" has been credited as the last song Johnny ever wrote, the last one he wrote was actually called "My Lord Has Gone".
  7. Played Henry Travis in 1990's television show called "Renegade".
  8. Was nicknamed "Maynard" by longtime pal and "blood-brother"(in Johnny's words) Waylon Jennings.
  9. After countless tests and misdiagnoses, Johnny was diagnosed with Auto-nomic Neuropathy, a disease that shortens nerve endings.
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Posted by on in The Songs

We'd like to share this special version of 'Old Rugged Cross' with you on this Easter Day.


Johnny decides to do this version in the middle of the show without the band knowing. It was taped in Des Moines in 1984.


'Sometimes I have to do what I feel like doing. When I came out of the intensive care, I found myself (give me the key of E Earl), I found myself singing this song. And I had my eyes closed. And it reminded me of a time I did this song for as person who is afflicted. And to do this song with some of the language with the language of the deaf, adds another element to it and I thought of this song as I was singing it to myself with my eyes closed that first day out of intensive care. On a hill.....'



Happy Easter everyone.

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Posted by on in The Songs

In 1987 or early 1988, Johnny Cash entered a studio in Hollywood, California and cut several songs for a Peter Bogdanovich comedy called Illegally Yours, which starred Rob Lowe and Colleen Camp.  All songs, including tracks titled "One Wish" and "Lady of Love" remain officially unreleased.  It appears that Cash cut at least three different versions of a song called "Love is a Gambler" for the film.  Two versions appear in in the film--one during the opening credits, the other during the closing credits. 


A third version, recorded as a duet between Cash and his daugther Rosanne Cash (who earned three much-deserved Grammys this year for her amazing Americana album, The River and the Thread), was actually the very first version recorded!  Johnny and Rosanne cut the song hoping for a hit record, rather than a movie theme.  Even after being produced by the great muse Jack Clement, in Nashville, the song remained unreleased. This rare duet has finally surfaced.


Thanks to Earl Poole Ball and Peter Bogdanovich, you can now hear a very young Rosanne and her father rocking together on what should be considered a classic Cash tune.


Recording Date: 1987-1988

Location: Nashville, TN.

Produced by Jack Clement.

Initial recording engineer: David Ferguson.

Written by Earl Poole Ball and Peter Bogdanovich.

Vocals: Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash.

Piano: Earl Poole Ball.

Remaining musicians unknown, possibly Jim Soldi, Kerry Marks on guitar, Kenny Malone on drums.

Remastered by Gary Hickenbotham at Fire Station Studios, San Marcos, TX.



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Posted by on in CashBack

This special episode features a musical history lesson in the people and the places and, of course, the music that made the man in Black the Man.


This week, our train celebrates the birthday of the Man, himself. Our show is two hours of music and memories. We’ll play your favorites like “Ring of Fire,” “Jackson,” and “I Walk the Line” and more obscure songs like “Sing It Pretty, Sue,” and rare cuts like a special version of “I Still Miss Someone.” You’ll hear how Cash became a legend whose shadow still dwarfs the rest of those on the musical landscape.


CASHback airs daily on At the conclusion of its run there, it will be available for download at



Download the show (Right click to download)

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Posted by on in Album Reviews

W.S. Holland, Johnny Cash’s only drummer, is an individual who needs no introduction.  There are many stories on how Johnny Cash managed to snatch W.S. Holland from Carl Perkins’ band, though as W.S. “Fluke” Holland explains it, there was really nothing dramatic behind the ordeal--he was ready to retire at the end of the 1950s, but Johnny Cash wanted a particular drummer and was persistent enough to keep W.S. with him for 37 years on the road, up until Cash’s retirement.


Of course, W.S. Holland remains on the road, and that very fact makes his latest album, LIVE in Memphis, something unique. 


This album was not a rushed release when it arrived in 2014, five years after the W.S. Holland Band’s formation in 2009, nor could it be in more capable hands.   Ron Haney, who manages the operation, is responsible for vocals and guitar, and Russ “Newt” Hall handles keyboards while Jim Reece provides the bass guitar work and vocals.  After five years of touring around the world--literally--the band decided that it was time for an album.  Instead of cutting songs in the studio however, they opted to go for a raw and authentic sound--and what better place to go than Memphis, where W.S. Holland helped pioneer rock and roll music.


The replication of Carl Perkins, his voice and sound, it spot on.  The twelve-minute homage to the music of Johnny Cash is handled with equal care, though as we all know, replicating Cash is impossible.  Nonetheless, Johnny Counterfit’s vocals are about as close as any impersonator gets (even Cash was impressed by Counterfit, in his lifetime).  The band provides a flawless rendition of the rockabilly and country sound that supplemented the original songs.


The dialogue between tracks by Holland is one of the best treats.  Holland recounts memories of his days at Sun and on the road with Johnny, and even manages to slip in his own solo piece, “Drum Time.”  The other original tune is a the tribute to Johnny Cash--but considering how W.S. Holland played on these song sessions originally, one can make the argument that the majority of music here is simply classic W.S. Holland.


To check out more about W.S. Holland and his band, and to purchase a copy of his latest CD, visit his official website.


  1. Rockabilly Fever
  2. Let the Good Times Roll
  3. Blue Suede Shoes
  4. Matchbox
  5. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  6. The Legend (Tribute to Johnny Cash) and Cash Medley (Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line)
  7. Ragged Old Flag
  8. Drum Time
  9. Everybody’s Tryin’ to be My Baby


Runtime: 41 minutes

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Posted by on in CashBack

"Come Along and Ride This Train"


Each episode features a musical history lesson in the people and the places and, of course, the music that made the man in Black the Man. This week, our train stops to remember “Hee Haw,” to retell how Bob Wootton joined the Tennessee Three, and to honor Bobby Emmons.


"On the Record"


This segment features the details behind the recording of some of Cash's biggest (and most obscure) recordings. This week’s song is the rare “I Never Got to Know Him Very Well.”


"On the Charts"


This segment features the charted hits of Johnny Cash. This week, “I Will Rock & Roll with You” was on the charts.


"On the Road"


This segment presents a song from a Johnny Cash concert recording out along the road that Cash took from the cotton fields to the hall of fame. This week, Cash is onstage at the Ryman Auditorium with Hank Williams, Jr. for “These Men with Broken Hearts” and “Kawliga.”


"Gospel Time"


When he arrived at Sun Studios, Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips as "Johnny Cash, gospel singer."  This segment highlights the gospel (and music) side of Johnny Cash. This week’s gospel song is “Pie in the Sky.”


CASHback airs daily on  At the conclusion of its run there, it will be available for download at




Download the show (Right click to download)

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Posted by on in CashBack

"Come Along and Ride This Train"


Each episode features a musical history lesson in the people and the places and, of course, the music that made the man in Black the Man. This week, our train celebrates Waylon Jennings’s birthday with an extra half hour of music and stories.


"On the Record"


This segment features the details behind the recording of some of Cash's biggest (and most obscure) recordings. This week’s song is “The Wanderer.”


"On the Charts"


This segment features the charted hits of Johnny Cash. This week, “There You Go” was on the charts.


"On the Road"


This segment presents a song from a Johnny Cash concert recording out along the road that Cash took from the cotton fields to the hall of fame. This week, Cash is onstage at the Olympia Theater in Dublin Ireland performing “Forty Shades of Green” with Kris Kristofferson and Sandy Kelly.


"Gospel Time"


When he arrived at Sun Studios, Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips as "Johnny Cash, gospel singer." This segment highlights the gospel (and music) side of Johnny Cash. This week’s gospel song is “The Greatest Cowboy of Them All.”


CASHback airs daily on At the conclusion of its run there, it will be available for download at




Download the show (Right click to download)

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Note: This review was written not long after attending the 82nd Johnny Cash Birthday Celebration in February of 2014.  It is being published now for those who couldn’t make it out last year, but are going this year, or considering making the trip.


I wrote a review on the Johnny Cash Museum several months ago, but it hardly needs my endorsement at this point.  Any trip advisor will tell you that it is well-worth the trek to Nashville and houses the largest collection of Johnny Cash material.  But the price of admission for the birthday celebration included limitless weekend access to the Johnny Cash Museum, so it is worth mentioning here.  


For a discount price, I stayed at the Hyatt Place hotel, which was only a five minute walk from the museum. (It also featured a very cool pixel picture of Cash in the foyer--take a picture of it with your cell phone if you make it out there.)  Attached to the museum is a Johnny Cash event center where the concerts and other programs were held.  The event room itself has a Facebook page--suffice to say, it was both classy and rugged, like the Man in Black himself.  There were two concerts, one on Friday and the other on Saturday night, and each featured a different host of guest singers.


Friday evening, before the first show, I arrived early--and W.S. Holland and his wife Joyce were hanging out.  It was surreal--here was W.S. Holland, casually relaxing in a sweater, an hour before showtime--and he was talking to me!  A little under an hour later, I sat in the audience and saw him take the stage in his black suit and dark shades.  Surreal.  And he was joined by the legendary Dave Roe.  Then, John Carter Cash took center position and the band rocked out a number of Johnny Cash songs--including “Big River”--and a few Carter Family songs.  W.S. Holland also treated us to a few numbers, including a tribute song called “The Legend.”  Need I tell you who it was about?  Later on, Lorrie Davis Bennett--a genuine member of the Carter Family, showcased some Carter classics, including the great--and endless--”Worried Man Blues” and she gave a superb performance of The Youngblood’s “Get Together.”  Cash recorded both songs on his TV show.


Before the second concert some games and activities were prepared--I understand they are a tradition.  There were some rounds of trivia and prices given--though it was just great to be surrounded by other Cashologists.  Mark Stielper, a Cash historian, gave a behind-the-scenes presentation over Cash’s TV series and rise to American icon.  Then there was the fan jam--and there should probably be a new show called “Johnny Cash Fans Got Talent.”  The only sour performance, in fact, was my own.  But the backing band was phenomenal. Then Bill Miller, founder of the museum and host for the party, announced the raffle winners.  There were prizes, big and small--from greatest hits CDs to vinyl 45s, from posters to license plates, from Johnny Cash trading cards to three checks hand-signed by Johnny Cash.  Pretty cool, don’t you think?


The second night’s lineup included God’s Outlaw, who got everyone involved in the great song “Stampede,” as well as a few original numbers by Johnny’s nephew Joe Cash and some gospel tunes by Johnny’s sister Joanne.  Tommy Cash--who I’ve been lucky enough to see twice before--also delivered on many Cash classics as well as his own “Six White Horses” and the most charismatic performance of “That’s Alright, Mama” that I’ve ever seen--sorry, Elvis!  Then Melanie took the stage to perform several of her own hits, including a more recent song “Working Legend,” which pays tribute to the Man in Black.


It was a fun trip, and needless to say, there is a lot to do in Nashville--or Cashville, as some now call it--and attending birthday celebration was a great experience.  

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Posted by on in CashBack

"Come Along and Ride This Train"


Each episode features a musical history lesson in the people and the places and, of course, the music that made the man in Black the Man. This week, our train features stops that recount the lives and times of Jim Marshall, Melanie, Mervyn Conn, and Bob Marley.


"On the Record"


This segment features the details behind the recording of some of Cash's biggest (and most obscure) recordings. This week’s song is “Be Careful Who You Love (Arthur’s Song).”


"On the Charts"


This segment features the charted hits of Johnny Cash. This week, “Chattanooga City Limits Sign” was on the charts.


"On the Road"


This segment presents a song from a Johnny Cash concert recording out along the road that Cash took from the cotton fields to the hall of fame. This week, Cash is onstage in Bremerhaven German performing “Green, Green Grass of Home.”


"Gospel Time"


When he arrived at Sun Studios, Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips as "Johnny Cash, gospel singer." This segment highlights the gospel (and music) side of Johnny Cash. This week’s gospel song is “Fair Weather Friends.”


CASHback airs daily on At the conclusion of its run there, it will be available for download at



Download the show (Right click to download)

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Posted by on in CashBack

"Come Along and Ride This Train"


Each episode features a musical history lesson in the people and the places and, of course, the music that made the man in Black the Man. This week, our train features stops that recount the lives and times of Flip Wilson and Pete Seeger. We also mourn the loss of life at California’s Los Gatos Canyon.


"On the Record"


This segment features the details behind the recording of some of Cash's biggest (and most obscure) recordings. This week’s song is “Good Old American Guest.”


"On the Charts"


This segment features the charted hits of Johnny Cash. This week, “Tennessee Flat Top Box” was on the charts.


"On the Road"


This segment presents a song from a Johnny Cash concert recording out along the road that Cash took from the cotton fields to the hall of fame. This week, Cash is joined onstage at the Ryman Auditorium by June Carter Cash for another trip to “Jackson.”

"Gospel Time"


When he arrived at Sun Studios, Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips as "Johnny Cash, gospel singer." This segment highlights the gospel (and music) side of Johnny Cash. This week’s gospel song is “You’ll Get Yours and I’ll Get Mine.”


CASHback airs daily on At the conclusion of its run there, it will be available for download at



Download the show (Right click to download)

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Posted by on in Album Reviews

We were very pleased to receive the album 'Cash Cover With Attitude' from the guys of 'Johnny Horsepower', the Cash tribute band from Copenhagen, Denmark. The band was formed in 2009 to pay tribute to the young and rebellious Johnny Cash. Notes on their album say 'The reason was and stilll is a profound passion for the '50s Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two.' You definitely get that experience when listening to the album.


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Posted by on in Interviews

Earl Poole Ball was gracious enough to sit down with me and discuss his beginnings, his time with Johnny Cash--and a plethora of other music legends--and his latest work, the great Pianography album.  It was a real treat to sit down with country music’s finest piano player for a couple hours on September 23, 2014 and January 9, 2015 to complete this interview for the Johnny Cash Infocenter.


Interview by: Jeff Emond


How did you get in the music business?


[When] I went into the music business I was young, and I had learned how to play the piano.  My mother had told me said if I took some lessons I’d be popular at parties.  And so I took piano lessons, and I enjoyed playing the piano.  I didn’t like classical music that much but I learned to play the pop songs through a chord book.  


Then these guys but a band together around Columbia, Mississippi, and they asked me to play with them, so I did.  I didn’t necessarily think that was what I would be doing for living, because I had other interests.  I wanted to go to college to study law, or theatre arts, or maybe some other stuff.  I liked political science when I was a teenager.  And then I got involved with this band, and I saw it was a pretty easy way to make money.  They were a little country-rockabilly band.  They were called the Hillcats.  Then I got involved with a lady and wound up marrying her, playing piano at night.  I dropped out of college, though I should have stayed in college and not got married.  But we make these mistakes when we’re young, we all do.  That’s what I was doing for a couple years in Mississippi.  


I’d been working with Jimmy Swan, a popular disc jockey there.  I got a job with him playing his TV show when I was a senior in high school, and then playing with him after I graduated.


So that’s how I became a piano player: it didn’t leave me any time to do anything else.  I just sort of drifted along with it.  


My marriage had gone bad in Mississippi so I moved to Texas for three years.  My father gave me two hundred dollars and a bus ticket one-way to Houston, Texas, and told me to get out of Mississippi and make something out of myself.   I played in Texas and became friends with Mickey Gilley.  I played there with a friend of mine who actually sang a lot of Johnny Cash tunes and helped me get that Memphis-style piano down.


I was pretty much in the music business just for a living at that time.  I was enjoying it, because as a young man I learned to drink beer and party a lot, and it went along with the job.  [Laughs.]  


Where you always attracted to country music?


Rock n’ roll and country, and rockabilly.  I played some blues with different people.  I love the blues.


What was it like to make your first album?


Well, my first recording, which wasn’t an album, was made in Houston with Mickey Gilley producing me.  He wanted to give me a chance.  I took the record to radio stations around Houston, and I got some air play and moderate success.  


After three years in Texas, I had moved to California, I got a job at the Palmino Club, which was world famous at the time for being the top country music club in the nation.  Then I became a member of a band called Red Rose and the Detours and everybody in the band got a chance to make a record for Crown Records.  They way they made those albums, they were kind of knock-off things.  You would record a really popular song, then you would fill the rest of the album up with your own original tunes, which you still owned the rights to.  So all the members of that band who sung and played recorded an album.  So for my album, the song “Love of the Common People” was popular by Waylon Jennings at the time.  I sang that song, then I filled the rest of the album up with originals.  I think we recorded each album in about two hours.  Then I didn’t cut another album for a long time.  


I recorded another one, first on cassette tape, called Earl Poole Ball and His Honky Tonk Piano.  It’s on my website store now.  I made the album while I was touring with Johnny.  Half of it is made of piano instrumentals, the other half is rockabilly.  A good cut on the album with “Crazy Arms” and there’s a great gospel tune there called “I’ve Got Jesus in My Soul.”


So let’s go back to California.  I jam sessions on the weekend with my own band called The Sessioneers.  We played The Aces Club on Friday and Saturday nights, and it was a big deal.  A lot of people came from San Diego and the large surrounding areas.  We started around 3:00 a.m. in the morning.  It was fun, but it was tiring.  I did it for about five years.  During that time, I got to know Cliffie Stone, who was a record producer and publisher.  He hired me to work at his publishing company, and that became my day job.  It was a great training ground.  Later on, I became a producer at Capitol Records.  I was also recording with Buck Owens and the Buckaroos at the time.  I was also working with Gram Parsons, on the International Submarine Band album, then Parsons pulled me over to record The Sweetheart of the Rodeo album with The Byrds.  I also cut a couple of tunes with The Flying Burrito Brothers.


I was with Capital in Texas until 1972, until I moved to a branch of Capitol Records in Nashville and worked there for about three years.  I moved because of the company.  I wouldn’t want to go on my own, I loved my California existence.  Then I met Johnny Cash through Harland Howard and Don Davis, and Cash asked me to join his band.  I put it off for about a year because I was enjoying playing sessions and not traveling, but then Cash made it such a good situation that I left Capitol Records and soon went to work with Cash.


Did Johnny hear a song that convinced him that you had to be his pianist?


I don’t know if there was a particular song.  I came into his picture when Don Davis, who had brought Cash the “One Piece at a Time Song.”  I demoed “One Piece at a Time” with the guy who wrote it.  I don’t know if he heard my piano playing on that or not, but Don Davis was producing “One Piece at a Time” with Johnny.  When I came back, he was producing Look At Them Beans and shortly after that he was doing The Rambler.  Cash had heard me play, and he really, really liked that I knew that Sun style of music.  The piano player he had at the time was getting ready to leave and form a gospel group.  


Don Davis was instrumental, because he worked with both Harland Howard and the music company owned by Tree.  He was also producing Johnny.  Davis was an ex-brother-in-law of Johnny; he had been married to Anita Carter.  He found some songs for Johnny, and Johnny was grateful that he did, so we recorded out of Johnny’s House of Cash Studios.  Johnny liked having his own studio.  


Do you remember the first song you played with Johnny?


I think it was one of the songs on Look At Them Beans, but I can’t remember which one.  


One album I wanted to talk about is one that is almost a cult-favorite, one that you produced, Rockabilly Blues.  How did that come about?


I had a song recorded by Johnny called “I Don’t Think I Can Take You Back Again.”  That song did two things.  It looked like Johnny’s contract was coming to an end with Columbia.  I went up to see Rick Blackburn.  I told that I had heard the rumor that Johnny was leaving the label.  I said, “I’ve got this great recording that he did called ‘I Don’t Think I Can Take You Back Again’ and I think it would be a great single if Johnny does leave the company.  I just want you to consider it, because I know you’ll want to release more Cash songs like Sun did even if he goes to a different label”   Blackburn looked at me quizzically.   It was a very stupid thing for me to do, but maybe it helped.  I was still naive at the time--I’m still not over naivety yet!  


I thought that I did the best I could for the song: I was the publisher, the writer and composer.  I left, and before long they wanted Johnny to do another album.  I don’t know if it was because I had been there, or they changed their mind about dropping him from the label.  Cash asked me to produce the record, and we started cutting some good songs.  


Then one day, we were walking down the street, he and I, going to our cars from the studio.  And I said, “Johnny, we’re doing these good songs but what are we doing to call this album?  Rockabilly something?”  He said, “Blues.  Rockabilly Blues.  Let’s call it that.”  So the title came after we started recording.  Then Cash wrote a song called Rockabilly Blues to have a song of that title on the record.  This was in the day before people did albums with great tunes just for the heck of having a great album.  Before, it seemed most of the artists in Nashville were getting a hit single and putting mediocre material around it to make an album.  But Rockabilly Blues changed that because it became an album with great tunes, but not big single.  But they learned that they had to promote an album as an album, and not just a collection of songs that could be singles.  

That’s how that came about.  Johnny asked me to do it and I did it.  He had a track that had been recorded with his son-in-law in England, Nick Lowe, and he had Jack Clement do a couple tracks.  We were challenged to add Bob Wootton and W.S. Holland to the Nick Lowe tune, and put proper sounding Johnny Cash electric guitar on that.  I worked with a very skilled engineer who managed to make it all gel together--he was fifty percent of the whole thing.  And Johnny had a lot of input, so I was mainly helping to keep everything coordinated.  I wish I had written a song for it, but I wasn’t writing much at the time.


It was really highly rated.  It was one of the top ten albums of the 1980s in Country Music Magazine.  Another album I produced with Merle Haggard, Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player, was also selected as one of the top ten.  I figured I wasn’t going to be able to top myself, so I might as well play the piano and travel around and see the world with Johnny, and have a good time.  That was about the same time I got my last divorce, and I was ready for a good time.


Did Rockabilly Blues feel like a hit album while making it?


It felt like something spectacular to me.  We had a Billy Joe Shaver tune, some Johnny tunes.  “The Twentieth Century is Almost Over” is one I thought would be a hit.  But Columbia just dropped the ball, they didn’t know how to promote that record.  That’s when I decided to quit being a producer


You played on the Gone Girl album?  




One of my favorite songs on there that you play on is “Song for the Life.”


Oh, yes.  That leads us to another subject.  I think that was just me, Johnny and Rosanne Cash.  That lead to a whole different chapter of my life.  Peter Bogdanovich, the movie producer, was a big fan of Johnny’s.  Peter was doing a movie in New York called Everybody Laughs.  Peter heard “Song for the LIfe” while he was doing this movie, and it came about that wanted to use “I Don’t Think I Can Take You Back Again” sung by Johnny Cash in the movie.  Some coordinators called.  I said of course they could use it, I gave them a decent little price, nothing they couldn’t afford.  Then I told them during a phone call that you don’t just need my song, you need me to come up and play the piano, I want to be in your movie!  They said really, what’s some of the stuff you’ve done?  I said that I’ve done some production and played on a lot of Johnny Cash records.  


It turns out, “Song for the LIfe” was a favorite of Peter Bogdanovich, he loved that song.  So I had a meeting with Peter in his suite at a big hotel in New York.  He decided he wanted to have me on to be the bandleader in his movie, and to help the singer.  She was an actress who could sing good, too, named Colleen Camp.  We played on the soundtrack for all of the songs.  That was a thrilling experience.


And that led to many small acting roles?


Yes it did.  I did Murder in Coweta County with Johnny because the bug bit me.  I also did The Pride of Jesse Hallam with Johnny.  Johnny would show up and know all of his lines, and seemed to be a natural.  Gary Nelson directed a lot of Cash’s movies.  Gary was a nice guy to work with, and he and his wife were really sweet.  He was a great director for John.  


And I did Texasville with Peter Bogdanovich.  It wasn’t a giant role but it paid really well, and I worked with Peter on some TV shows as well.  


Since you worked on Texasville and live in Texas, are you a fan of Larry McMurtry?


I’m a fan and I met him one time, when we were filming in New York.  He dropped by the set and I got to meet him.  I recorded with his son, James McMurtry, here in Austin.  He’s a good singer/songwriter.  I recorded two tunes on one of his albums about eight years ago.  


Johnny made the piano a prominent part of his live show.  How did that come to be?


Yeah, that just sort of fell into place.  It has the basic sound he liked from when he started in Memphis.  Johnny really liked the piano, and I played with him on a lot of the gospel sounds he was featured.  He especially liked the gospel sound on the piano.  He gave me a chance to sing and play some instrumentals, I played the “Tennessee Waltz” and “Last Date” a lot.  I’m glad that he liked it and kept me going.  Johnny and June became like family to me after a couple of years, they were just such great people.


Did you have a favorite song to play live?


I got the most reaction to “I’ve Got Jesus in My Soul.”  And “Music Box Dancer.”  People just seem to love that song.  I did it with a boogie-woogie part in the middle, then slowed it back down.  It was sort of a show piece, and Johnny had me play that everywhere: Europe, Australia, New Zealand.  Cash liked that for several years, and I think we wore it out a little bit.  


Did you meet any famous leaders or presidents?


I didn’t meet any presidents.  I met Billy Graham when Graham was in Nashville and John had me come down to have a meal.  I think we were at an Italian restaurant, and then I got to see him again at Johnny’s home.  That’s the most prominent person I think of, and Billy Graham sent me a Christmas card for years.


Do you remember doing many prison or Native American benefit concerts?


The first shows that I worked with Cash were prison concerts.  I think we did three in one day in California.  I started working with him in 1977, but I think it was at the end of 1976 that we played those concerts, as sort of an audition for me.  It was remarkable.   I did go into Folsom one time with Merle Haggard when I was working for Capitol Records in California.  But it was different this time with Johnny.  There were bigger audiences and Johnny played for the entire population of the center.


What can you tell us about Johnny’s activism or humanitarian work?


I remember going to Jamaica and playing there for an orphanage.  This was just before going to Europe, we went to Jamaica to raise some funds.  Hugh Waddell put together a fundraiser, Rock for the Animals, that was a fundraiser for animals.  We played that in Nashville.  I know Cash did a lot of individual humanitarian things.  He did some fundraisers for the Carter Fold out of Bristol. It was almost a humanitarian thing when we went to Czechoslovakia because those people really needed some sunlight in their lives.  But it was a paid performance situation.


Is there any live concert that you have a vivid memory of?


One of the concerts that really sticks out for me, maybe above all of them, is the very first Czechoslovakian concerts.  We did two days, and we played for over forty thousand people.  That’s on video.  


Is there any piece of advice Cash gave you that’s memorable?


Yeah, one in particular, and I think about it a lot when I have to go to the doctor.  Cash said, “Be careful of going to specialists, Earl.  Or else somehow they’ll figure out a way to work you into their speciality.”


There was one time in my career when I would have little panic attacks, and I’d feel like the stage was spinning around.  I went to a doctor for that, and he gave me medication that I took for maybe too long.  I decided it wasn’t the miracle drug I hoped it was, but something the doctor gave me to pacify me.  These panic attacks started on a freeway in California when big trucks surrounded me, and I had to pull over to the side of the road.  I had another in Nashville.  I finally got the right diagnosis and they recommended counseling.  


Sooner or later, I talked to Johnny about what was going on.  We had some important dates coming up that I felt I might not be able to make.  I was ready to change doctors to figure out what to do.  I told Johnny about what I was going through, and that I couldn’t make all these upcoming dates, but I’ll make what I can.  Johnny said, “Don’t worry about it Earl, make what you can.  I can handle it if you can.”  I never missed a paycheck, even when I had to get into a treatment situation.  I never missed a paycheck.  Johnny Cash was very loyal, and very caring about the people in his band.  He was always very, very good to his people.


It was such a pleasurable experience for twenty years.  At one point I got to thinking, when I was in my forties, that maybe I need to go to college now.  I told Lou Robin and W.S. Holland that.  I said maybe I need to go to school and figure out something else to do.  They both looked at me and said, “Earl, it’s too late now.”  I had an ideal job, and it was entertaining with different places, people and situations every day.  It wasn't like a job, the only hard part about it was traveling.  But the actual experience playing the shows, and being a part of a huge traveling family, was a really great experience for me.  And because I did that, at this point in my life I get enough work.  


Can you talk about how your latest record, Pianography, came about?


I had these songs laying around that I always wanted to record, some in my publishing company and some that I had written--all noteworthy songs.  A friend of mine who does record promotions, Terry Hendrix, suggested that I make a record.  She heard me singing in The Lucky Tomblin Band, a great that I was in.  She told me I had to make my own record, so I got the [recording] bug.  I had some extra money--lately I found out there’s no such thing as extra money--and I took the money and put it toward Pianography.  I got the band that I was playing with at the time, a rockabilly/blues band, with some great musicians in it, and we went into what I considered one of the best studios in sound.  Finally we got something acceptable down after mixing it three times, going through several different versions.  


Three or four of the tunes were recorded live a Johnny Cash tribute show, which were just part of the many that I did.  I didn’t even know they were being recorded.  I got my friend Lisa Morales to sing on it, she’s been my favorite gospel and blues singer forever.  I got a couple of other ladies to sing with me, [including] Cindy Cashdollar.  It was just something I felt I should do, though it was ridiculous for someone at my age.  I bought a ton of promotion with the press all over the world.  I didn’t take out ads, but I used a guy who does magazine promotions.  It went out mainly to Americana stations.  I don’t think stations that play the real country music got serviced that well, [but] I want to re-service it to those people.  In a sense, except for the few people who have heard it all the way through and got the message, it’s a lost cause.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the songs.  It’s the last production I’ll do, probably the last record I’m ever going to make.  People that have listened to Pianography more than once dig into it and they really like it.  


One song, “Something’s Gonna Get Us All,” is a really humorous song about mortality.  Did you write it?


No, it was written by a friend of mine, Bucky Lindsey.  I knew him from when I was in Nashville.  He’s a really great writer who writes a lot of blues.  He’s had some award-winning compositions.  He sent me a copy of “Something’s Gonna Get Us All” and I said, “Well that sounds great!”  So I learned it and taught it to my band, and we pretty much used his demo arrangement.  I like the song, I thought it was great for a good shuffle, and it as a great lesson, too.


You talk a bit about the musical horn arrangement on “Say You Love Me”?


Right at end [of the song] I put a Dixie Band thing together.  There’s a trombone and a tuba, and it fits in with the rest of the band.  That song had been written for a long time.  Joel Sonye and I wrote it years and years ago.  I thought it was a great song.  I got Julian Banks to sing that with me, she’s a really great singer.


The opening track, “Standing at the Edge of the World,” has some really cool whistling in it.


Jody Adere did the whistling.  She’s a girl who was in the band that we had, and she was a really good whistler.  The idea came about because she would whistle on stage.  She just started doing it one day, and I didn’t even know she could whistle.  And so, I got her to come in and whistle on it.


It’s a catchy song.


I always thought it was a catchy song.  Somebody might record that one of these days and have a big hit with it.  It has a lot of good verbal and musical hooks to it.


We talked about how the title track is autobiographical.  Were the songs “The Real Me” and “One of Those Old Things We All Go Through” also autobiographical?  


I wrote “The Real Me.”  It’s autobiographical too, but partly about me and partly about a friend I know.  I believe Joel Sonye and I wrote “One of Those Old Things We All Go Through” years ago, and it’s also autobiographical.


Sometimes I think that maybe, unless you’re a household name like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash, you shouldn’t even put out an autobiographical album.  A lot of people don’t have enough to read about you to know what you’ve been through and what you’ve done to know it’s an autobiographical presentation.


So what are you up to now musically?


Right now I play on Sundays nights with a band called Haybale.  We play from 9:45 to midnight on Sunday nights.  Tom Lewis organized the band and plays the drums.  Redd Volkaert is a preeminent electric guitar player.  Johnny Cox plays the steel guitar.  Dallas Wayne, a great singer, songwriter and disc jockey who hosts Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM, plays the bass and sings.  Sometimes the original bass player for Willie Nelson plays the bass with us.  And I play the piano and sing.  It’s either a five or six piece lineup.  We play at the Continental Club, a preeminent kind of place in Austin.  It features rockabilly, country, and alternative music styles.  A lot of Americana acts come by there.


Last night I played with a band called Rick Broussard and Two Hoots and a Holler.  I just love playing with them.  I play with them once a month at a place called The High Ball.  He does a lot of cajun stuff.  He uses me to augment his band on one Thursday night a month.  Another band I play with is called Deuce Coupe.  Kevin Fox, a major songwriter for the group and a delightful and talented young man, has a drummer and a bass player that are some of the best rhythm section people that I’ve ever played with.  I work with them two or three times a month.  They work as a trio mainly, but for certain gigs they put me in.  Those are the main people I play with.  


I’m seventy-three years old.  It’s such a hassle to have your own band and keep them booked fully enough to keep the same people most of the time.  The nature of the beast here in Austin is one where very rarely will you have a really great guitar, drum or bass player, but very rarely will you have those particular three together.  All of them have other jobs and are in other bands.  You always have to call in substitutes, so nobody knows you original songs--you can only play the classics.  I’m in semi-retirement and I’ve abandoned the thought of having my own band for now.  I might want to create an all-girl band.  An old man and three beautiful women playing good music would be something kind of different--we might even be able to get work!  Without a hassle!  [Laughs.]   


Living here in Austin, I’ve noticed how the city is growing and changing from the city I moved to in 1999.  I floated around for about a year after Johnny quit touring and moved here because Dale Watson suggested that I should, and he was right.  I’m trying not to work a lot.  It kind of takes care of itself--if you don’t go out there and beat the bushes, people don’t think about you.  Other than that, I’m just hanging in there, trying to enjoy life a little bit.  I don’t have any major hobbies--music is my hobby.


What is one of your favorite books?


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks.  I’ve just read a Jerry Lee Lewis life story called Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg.  It’s a new book and it’s very, very good.  Jerry Lee told the co-author his story, and the author elaborated on what happened, where it happened, what happened next.  I mostly read biographies and autobiographies.  Buck Owens has one too called Buck ‘Em!, and I [have found] that my favorite readings are about entertainers.  There’s one called Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, written by J. D. Davis that I’ve read.


Thank you so much for your time.


Feel free to read our review of Pianography, or check out Earl Poole Ball's official website to keep up with tour dates and recordings.


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