Don Wilson's Hollywood Beat
Rosanne Cash and her father Johnny Cash.
The first time that I met Johnny Cash I don't remember. The reason for that, I was a year old at the time. The occasion was Johnny's concert at the Sportatorium in Dallas on August 12, 1962 and my father took me.Perhaps that memory is deeply hidden in my subconscious, I wish that I could bring it to the surface and recall it. My dad frequently brought me to events , he went to a lot of Country Music shows. I loved music at that age and would focus and pay attention to the performers - he told me. Later, he would take me to Wrestling matches there to see the wrestling stars of the day like Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine and The Masked Marvel.
The next Johnny Cash concert that I attended, I do remember! It was held on November 30, 1969 at The Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas. The "Man In Black" was riding high on his hits single "A Boy Named Sue" at this time and his hit albums "Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison" and "Johnny Cash At San Quentin" plus a popular ABC-TV series,"The Johnny Cash Show" which had premiered in June of that same year.
On Johnny's birthday, February 16, 1971 he and June appeared at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome. John complained throat and allergy problems and a specialist treated him prior to his performance.In the middle of the performance I remember the lights in the Astrodome came up. Then, all of the audience, including me, sang "Happy Birthday" to Johnny Cash, he had just turned 37 year old! After the show ended, I recall Big John circling in the back of a jeep waving to the crowd with a big smile on his face. He was wearing an Andrew Jackson style suit that he became known for wearing during this period.On July 30, 1972, I saw the biggest Country Music show imaginable - an unbelievable lineup, it was a Tribute To Tex Ritter. This legendary show was held at the Sam Houston Coliseum. Johnny Cash was the headliner, these were the other performers: June Carter, The Carter Family, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, The Tennessee Three, Larry Butler, Roy Acuff, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn and Minnie Pearl. It as a four hour show!
Johnny kept coming to town and I kept going to see him. I remember these shows so vividly that I can still write about them and I will over time. On November 11, 1976 John came to the Houston Music Theatre. I attended the show with my grandmother, she was 66 years old at the time and she just loved Johnny. Lou escorted both of us back.
We had a good conversation about the Bicentennial, Music and Elvis. John said "I wish Elvis would play guitar on his records like he used to to. He's a great rhythm player!"I had recently seen Elvis and he asked me to "Tell Johnny Cash that I said hello." I did just that and John said "You give Elvis my best! I haven't seen him since 1962, but we've corresponded some..."
About that time, singers Jan Howard and Anita Carter came by and we chatted some. Anita saw my camera and then she said: "Is that one of those new instant cameras? I haven't seen one yet!" I assured her that it was indeed a Polaroid Pronto. I then let her pretty much the remaining shots of other show members milling backstage, as John watched her and smiled broadly. I didn't see June before the show this time, she was putting on her "Aunt Polly" makeup for a comedic part of the show. She would wear a very "country" type dress and her hair was made into pig tails and she had red cheeks for this character.
That would not be the last time that I met with the Man In Black. There are more times that I will draw from the well of my memory. I haven't begin to write about this incredible, man. He had many facets: Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Patriot, Cowboy, Actor, Rebel and Christian - those are just a few. He had a charisma like no other. Glen Campbell told me : "There's only two guys that have that incredible charisma on stage, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley." Johnny Cash was my first musical hero and that magic has not diminished to his day.
If you are a new fan of Johnny Cash - you are in for an experience. Pick up some CD's and videos and take the Man In Black in. You'll be glad that you did. He was one of a kind, there will never be another like him. I miss him, it doesn't seem right to be in the world and he's not here. He remains in our memories and his recorded work.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Johnny Cash and to his family, friends and fans. Big John was my first influence and the impact of his life, strength, character, talent and humanity has never decreased in all of these years. he is greatly missed and loved.
Cindy Cash and her father Johnny Cash on stage.
Johnny Cash and Don Wilson in 1976
When you are in Nashville, you need to check out The Johnny Cash Museum! For information call (615) 256-1777. The museum is a treasure trove for Cash fans and music lovers period. This is what you call a must see!
Kirk Douglas and Johnny Cash on set for an ABC-TV special in 1971.
The best book about John, in my opinion was written by Henry Vaccaro, Johnny Cash Is A Friend Of Mine! It's a must read! You can purchase this fine addition to your library, it is available on Amazon.com Pick up one for you and some for friends - you'll be glad that you did! - Don Wilson