Patsy Cline

The below information is about entertainers that I knew that have passed on.

I  am including information here about Patsy because I first met her when her husband Charlie Dick (Hello Charlie)
was  stationed in
the Army at Ft. Bragg, NC and I was also stationed there. I remember Colorado  Springs, Colorado
when  she  did a show there a short time before her death.  They  were  not  going  to 
let  me  behind  stage  in 
Colorado  Springs until I told them to go back and tell Patsy that George wanted to see her , needless  to say, I
was back stage shortly. What a 
wonderful young lady, a friend, and an exceptional entertainer.

Patsy Clines birth name: Virginia Patterson Hensley.
She was born in Winchester, Virginia.

I am from from West Virginia, just across the Alleghany Mountains from the Shenandoah Valley.  
(13 miles from the Virginia border, Marlinton, Pocahontas County, West Virginia)

I (George) had several autographed pictures of Patsy which were destroyed in a fire.

The movie about Patsy (Sweet Dreams) is good if you like fiction. Much of the movie is not true. Hollywood likes to
dramatize too much.    

March 5, 1963
On this date a wonderful voice was lost. It says on her headstone "Death can not kill what never dies ~ love." 

In memory of you darlin' Patsy, may your memory and music remain in our hearts forever.
You are with Our Lord And Savior Jesus and I will met you again.

All Credit for the below pictures and news article are given to the Nashville Banner.
March 6, 1963
Randy Hughes was Patsy's manager and pilot of the Piper Comanche that
crashed, Just west of Camden, Tennessee, and killed Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw
Hawkins ( from West Virginia), Cowboy Copas & Randy

Patsy Cline

b. Virginia Patterson Hensley, 8 September 1932, Gore, near Winchester, Virginia, USA, d. 5 March 1963, Camden, Tennessee, USA. Her father, Sam Hensley, already had two children from a previous marriage when he married Hilda, Patsy's mother - a woman many years his junior. Hilda was only 16 when Patsy was born and they grew up like sisters. At the age of four, Patsy was influenced by a film of Shirley Temple and, without tuition, learned tap-dancing and showed an interest in music that was encouraged by the piano-playing of her step-sister. In spite of financial hardships, her parents gave her a piano for her seventh birthday, which she soon learned to play by ear. Hilda could never understand her daughter's affinity with country music, since neither she nor Sam was interested in the genre. At the age of 10, Patsy was eagerly listening to broadcasts from the Grand Ole Opry and informing everyone that one day she too would be an Opry star. In the early 40s, the Hensleys relocated to Winchester, where Patsy became interested in the country show on WINC presented by Joltin' Jim McCoy. Apart from playing records, he also fronted his own band in live spots on the show.

At the age of 14, Patsy contacted McCoy and told him she wanted to sing on his show. He was impressed by her voice and Virginia Hensley quickly became a regular singer with his Melody Playboys. She also became associated with pianist William "Jumbo" Rinker with whom she sang at local venues, and she left school to work in Gaunt's Drug Store to help the family finances. In 1948, Wally Fowler, a noted Opry artist whose gospel show was broadcast live on WSM, appeared at the Palace Theatre in Winchester. Patsy brazenly manoeuvred herself backstage on the night and confronted Fowler. Taken aback by her approach, he sarcastically suggested that perhaps she was "Winchester's answer to Kitty Wells", but nevertheless let her sing for him. She sang unaccompanied and impressed Fowler so much that he included her in that night's show. Having sought Hilda's permission for her to audition for WSM in Nashville, a few weeks later, Patsy went to see Jim Denny, the manager of the Opry. Accompanied by the legendary pianist Moon Mullican, Patsy impressed Denny who asked her to remain in Nashville so that he could arrange an Opry appearance. However, without money, although too embarrassed to admit it, and accompanied by the two younger children, Hilda pleaded that they must return to Winchester that day. Before they left, Roy Acuff, who had heard Patsy's singing from an adjoining studio, asked her to sing on his Noon Time Neighbours broadcast that day. Her hopes that she would hear from Denny, however, were not realized and Patsy returned to the drug store and singing locally.

In 1952, she met Bill Peer, a disc jockey and musician, who had run bands for some years, and who was at the time touring the Tri-State Moose Lodge circuit with his band, the Melody Boys And Girls. He hired Patsy as lead vocalist and on 27 September 1952, she made her first appearance with him at the Brunswick Moose Club in Maryland. Peer did not think the name Virginia was suitable and, wrongly assuming that her second name was Patricia, he billed her as Patsy Hensley. On 27 February 1953, Patsy married Gerald Cline, whom she had met at a show only a few weeks earlier. On the night of her marriage, Patsy appeared on stage for the first time as Patsy Cline. Although Cline's name was known over a considerable area, Peer was aware that she needed national exposure, and concentrated his efforts on seeking a recording contract for her. A demo tape attracted attention and on 30 September 1954, she signed a two-year contract with Four-Star, a Pasadena-based independent company, once owned by Gene Autry, whose president was now William A. McCall, a man not highly regarded by many in the music business. The contract stated that all Patsy Cline's recordings would remain Four-Star property - in effect, she could only record songs that McCall published and, being a non-writer herself, she was obliged to record any material he chose.

Cline made her first four recordings on 1 June 1955 under the production of pianist, guitarist and arranger Owen Bradley, in his "Quonset" hut studios in Nashville. "A Church, A Courtroom And Then Goodbye", penned by Eddie Miller and W.S. Stevenson, was the chosen song, but it failed to reach the country charts (W.S. Stevenson was a pseudonym used by McCall, seemingly for his own songs, but it is known that, on occasions, he applied the name to songs that were written by other writers, such as Donn Hecht, who were under contract to his label). Cline made further recordings on 5 January and 22 April 1956, including the toe-tapping "I Love You Honey" and the rockabilly "Stop, Look And Listen". The anticipated country chart entries did not occur and she became despondent. Her private life took a new turn in April 1956, when she met Charlie Dick, who became her second husband when her marriage to Gerald Cline ended in 1957. In an effort to secure a country hit, McCall commissioned songwriter Hecht, who suggested "Walkin' After Midnight", a blues-styled number that he had initially written for Kay Starr, who had turned it down. Cline did not like the song either, claiming it was "nothing but a little old pop song". Under pressure from Decca (who leased her records from Four-Star), she recorded it, on 8 November 1956, in a session that also included "A Poor Man's Roses (Or A Rich Man's Gold)" and "The Heart You Break May Be Your Own". On 28 January 1957, although preferring "A Poor Man's Roses", she sang "Walkin' After Midnight" on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show. On 11 February, Decca released the two songs in a picture sleeve on 78 rpm and it immediately entered both country and pop charts. Cline first sang "Walkin' After Midnight" on the Opry on 16 February. The song finally peaked as a number 2 country and number 12 pop hit, while "A Poor Man's Roses" also reached number 14 on the country chart. It was later estimated that the record sold around three-quarters of a million copies.

In July 1959, she recorded two fine gospel numbers, "Life's Railroad To Heaven" and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee", but although Decca released various records the follow-up chart hit did not materialize. In truth, Decca had only 11 songs, recorded between February 1958 and November 1960, from which to choose. It was possible Cline chose to record the minimum number necessary under the terms of her Four-Star contract in the hope McCall would drop her, thus enabling her to pick up a promised Decca contract. The first song she recorded under her new association with Decca, on 16 November 1960, was "I Fall To Pieces" by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. It quickly became a country number 1 and also peaked at number 12 on the pop charts. In August 1961 she completed a four-day recording session that included "True Love", "The Wayward Wind", "San Antonio Rose" and her now legendary version of "Crazy". Willie Nelson, who had written the song, had demoed it almost as a narration. With Owen Bradley's persuasion, she produced her own stunning interpretation in one take. The recording was a number 2 country and a number 9 pop hit. In 1962, "She's Got You" was an even bigger country hit, spending five weeks at number 1, while peaking at number 14 in the pop charts. It also became her first entry in the Top 50 UK pop charts.

Meanwhile, her marriage to Charlie Dick was becoming more stormy. She had long ago discarded her cowgirl outfits for more conventional dress and she seemed indifferent to her weight problem. Her wild and promiscuous lifestyle included an enduring affair with Faron Young. Her last recording session took place on 7 February 1963, when she recorded "He Called Me Baby", "You Took Him Off My Hands" and "I'll Sail My Ship Alone". The latter, ironically, was a song written by Moon Mullican, the pianist who had played for her Opry audition in 1948. Cline appeared in Birmingham, Alabama, with Tex Ritter and Jerry Lee Lewis on 2 March 1963, following which she agreed with other artists to appear in a charity show in Kansas City the next day, a show staged for the widow of Jack Call, a noted disc jockey on KCMK, known as Cactus Jack, who had died in a car crash. The weather was bad on 4 March but early on the afternoon of 5 March, in spite of further adverse weather forecasts, Cline, together with country singers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, set off on the five-hundred-mile flight to Nashville in a small aircraft piloted by Randy Hughes, the son-in-law of Copas and Cline's lover and manager. Hughes first landed at Little Rock to avoid rain and sleet and then at Dyersburg to refuel, where he was warned of bad weather in the area. They encountered further bad weather and, although the exact reason for the crash is unknown, the life of Patsy Cline came to an end some 50 minutes later, when the aircraft came down in woodland about a mile off Highway 70, near Camden, Tennessee.

At the time of her death, Cline's recording of "Leaving On Your Mind" was in both country and pop charts and before the year was over, both "Sweet Dreams" and "Faded Love" became Top 10 country and minor pop hits. It has been suggested that Patsy Cline was not an outstanding performer of up-tempo material, but it is an undisputed fact that she could extract every possible piece of emotion from a country weepie. Her versions of "Walkin' After Midnight", "I Fall To Pieces", "Crazy", "She's Got You" and "Sweet Dreams" represent five of the greatest recordings ever made in country music. Those in any doubt of Patsy Cline's standing should consult the Billboard back-catalogue country chart - at one point her Greatest Hits album stood at number 1 for over four years, in addition to over 10 million sales and 13 years actually on the chart!



Jim Reeves

Another entertainer I remember very well was Gentleman Jim.

May you rest in peace Jim

b. Panola County, Texas, August 20, 1923; d. July 31, 1964

I had several autographed pictures of Jim that were destroyed in a fire.

Jim Reeves Obituary

NASHVILLE, Aug 2 (AP) ---Jim Reeves, 39 years old, the country music singer, and a companion were found dead in the wreckage of a private, single-engine plane 10 miles south of here today.

Mr. Reeves' body was identified from a driver's license taken from the wreckage. The other victim was believed to be Mr. Reeves' pianist and road manager, Dean Manuel, 30.

The plane crashed Friday night on a return trip from Batesville, Ark. John Kane, a Tennessee highway patrolman said the plane was demolished. The engine was partly buried. The plane crashed in a wooded area just off U.S. 31. There was some evidence of fire in the wreckage.

The bodies were taken to a Nashville funeral home. More than 700 volunteer searchers, civil-defense workers and policemen covered a 20-square-mile area for two days. Military, state and private planes also searched the area.

Many of the searchers were Mr. Reeves' friends and associates in the country-music business. They included Chet Atkins, the guitarist, and Eddy Arnold, Stonewall Jackson, and Ernest Tubb, the singers.

Mr. Reeves turned to music when he suffered an arm injury in spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. The former "Grand Old Opry" star recorded a number of popular songs, including "Four Walls," "He'll Have To Go," and "Mexican Joe." He recently was star of a movie, "Kimberly Jim," filmed in South Africa and just released in this country.

1964 The New York Times


b. James Travis Reeves, 20 August 1923, Galloway, Texas, USA, d. 31 July 1964, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. (Reeves' plaque in the Country Music Hall Of Fame mistakenly gives his date of birth as 1924). Reeves' father died when he was 10 months old and his mother was left to raise nine children on the family farm. Although only aged five, Reeves was entranced when a brother brought home a gramophone and a Jimmie Rodgers record, "Blue Yodel No. 5'. When aged nine, he traded stolen pears for an old guitar he saw in a neighbour's yard. A cook for an oil company showed him the basic chords and when aged 12, he appeared on a radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana. By virtue of his athletic abilities, he won a scholarship to the University of Texas. However, he was shy, largely because of a stammer, which he managed to correct while at university (Reeves" records are known for perfect diction and delivery). His first singing work was with Moon Mullican's band in Beaumont, Texas, and he worked as an announcer and singing disc jockey at KGRI in Henderson for several years (Reeves eventually bought the station in 1959). He recorded two singles for a chain store's label in 1949. In November 1952 Reeves moved to KWKH in Shreveport, where his duties included hosting The Louisiana Hayride. He stood in as a performer when Hank Williams failed to arrive and was signed immediately to Abbott Records. In 1953, Reeves received gold discs for two high-voiced, country novelties, "Mexican Joe" and "Bimbo". In 1955 he joined the Grand Ole Opry and started recording for RCA Records in Nashville, having his first hit with a song based on the "railroad, steamboat" game, "Yonder Comes A Sucker". Chet Atkins considered "Four Walls" a "girl's song", but Reeves persisted and used the song to change his approach to singing. He pitched his voice lower and sang close to the microphone, thus creating a warm ballad style which was far removed from his hillbilly recordings. "Four Walls" became an enormous US success in 1957, crossing over to the pop market and becoming a template for his future work. From then on, Atkins recorded Reeves as a mellow balladeer, giving him some pop standards and replacing fiddles and steel guitar with piano and strings (exceptions include an album of narrations, Tall Tales And Short Tempers). Reeves had already swapped his western outfit for a suit and tie, and, in keeping with his hit "Blue Boy", his group, the Wagonmasters, became the Blue Boys. He always included a religious section in his stage show and also sang "Danny Boy" to acknowledge his Irish ancestry. "He'll Have To Go" topped the US country charts for 14 weeks and made number 2 in the US pop charts. In this memorable song, Reeves conveyed an implausible lyric with conviction, and it has now become a country standard. A gooey novelty, "But You Love Me Daddy", recorded at the same session with Steve, the nine-year-old son of bass player Bob Moore, was a UK Top 20 hit 10 years later. Having established a commercial format, "Gentleman Jim" had success with "You're The Only Good Thing", "Adios Amigo", "Welcome To My World" (UK number 6) and "Guilty", which features French horns and oboes. His records often had exceptional longevity; "I Love You Because" (number 5) and "I Won't Forget You" (number 3) were on the UK charts for 39 and 25 weeks, respectively. He became enormously popular in South Africa, recording in Afrikaans, and making a light-hearted film there, Kimberley Jim, which became a local success.

Reeves did not like flying but after being a passenger in a South African plane that developed engine trouble, he obtained his own daytime pilot's licence. On 31 July 1964 pilot Reeves and his pianist/manager, Dean Manuel, died when their single-engine plane ran into difficulties during a storm and crashed into dense woods outside Nashville. The bodies were not found until 2 August despite 500 people, including fellow country singers, being involved in the search. Reeves was buried in a specially landscaped area by the side of Highway 79 in Texas, and his collie, Cheyenne, was buried at his feet in 1967.

Reeves continued to have hits with such ironic titles as "This World Is Not My Home" and the self-penned "Is It Really Over?". Although Reeves had not recorded "Distant Drums" officially - the song had gone to Roy Orbison - he had made a demo for songwriter Cindy Walker. Accompaniment was added and, in 1966, "Distant Drums' became Reeves" first UK number 1. He had over 80 unreleased tracks and his widow Mary Reeves followed a brilliant, if uncharitable, marketing policy whereby unheard material would be placed alongside previously issued tracks to make a new album. Sometimes existing tracks were remastered and duets were constructed with Deborah Allen and the late Patsy Cline. Reeves became a bestselling album artist to such an extent that 40 Golden Greats topped the UK charts in 1975.

Both the Blue Boys and his nephew John Rex Reeves have toured with tribute concerts, and much of the singer's catalogue is still available. Reeves' relaxed style has influenced Don Williams and Daniel O'Donnell, but the combination of pop balladry and country music is more demanding than it appears, and Reeves remains its father figure. Mary Reeves, who did so much to keep her husband's name alive, died on 11 November 1999.


Waylon Jennings

b. Wayland Arnold Jennings, 15 June 1937, Littlefield, Texas, USA, d. 13 February 2002, Arizona, USA. Jennings' mother wanted to name him Tommy but his father, William Alvin, insisted that the family tradition of "W.A.' should be maintained. His father played guitar in Texas dancehalls and Jennings" childhood hero was Ernest Tubb, with whom he later recorded. When only 12 years old, he started as a radio disc jockey and then, in Lubbock, befriended an aspiring Buddy Holly. In 1958, Holly produced his debut single "Jole Blon" and they co-wrote "You're The One", a Holly demo that surfaced after his death. Jennings played bass on Holly's last tour, relinquishing his seat for that fatal plane journey to the Big Bopper. Jennings named his son, Buddy, after Holly and he recalled their friendship in his 1976 song "Old Friend". Much later (1996) he contributed a poignant version of "Learning The Game" with Mark Knopfler to the Buddy Holly tribute album notfadeaway.

After Holly's death, Jennings returned to radio work in Lubbock, before moving to Phoenix and forming his own group, the Waylors. They began a two-year residency at a new Phoenix club, J.D's, in 1964. The album of their stage repertoire has worn well, but less satisfying was Don't Think Twice, Jennings' album for A&M Records. "Herb Alpert heard me as Al Martino," says Waylon, "and I was wanting to sound like Hank Williams". Bobby Bare heard the A&M album and recommended Jennings to record producer Chet Atkins.

Jennings started recording for RCA Records in 1965 and made the US country charts with his first release, "That's The Chance I'll Have To Take". He co-wrote his 1966 country hit, "Anita, You're Dreaming", and developed a folk-country style with "For Lovin' Me". He and Johnny Cash shared two wild years in Nashville, so it was apt that he should star in Nashville Rebel, a dire, quickly made movie. Jennings continued to have country hits - "Love Of The Common People", "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line" and, with the Kimberlys, "MacArthur Park". However, he was uncomfortable with session men, feeling that the arrangements were overblown. He did his best, even with the string-saturated "The Days Of Sand And Shovels", which was along the lines of Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey".

When Jennings was ill with hepatitis, he considered leaving the business, but his drummer Richie Albright talked him into staying on. Jennings recorded some excellent Shel Silverstein songs for the soundtrack of Ned Kelly, which starred Mick Jagger, and the new Jennings fell into place with his 1971 album, Singer Of Sad Songs, which was sympathetically produced by Lee Hazlewood. Like the album sleeve, the music was darker and tougher, and the beat was more pronounced. Such singles as "The Taker", "Ladies Love Outlaws" and "Lonesome, On'ry And Mean' showed a defiant, tough image. The cover of Honky Tonk Heroes showed the new Jennings and the company he was keeping. His handsome looks were overshadowed by dark clothes, a beard and long hair, which became more straggly and unkempt with each successive album. The new pared-down, bass-driven, no-frills-allowed sound continued on The Ramblin" Man and on his best album, Dreaming My Dreams. The title track is marvellously romantic, and the album also included "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?", "Bob Wills Is Still The King", a tribute to his roots, and "Let's All Help The Cowboys (Sing The Blues)", an incisive look at outlaw country with great phased guitar.

Wanted! The Outlaws and its hit single, "Good Hearted Woman', transformed both Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings" careers, making them huge media personalities in the USA (the 1996 Anniversary reissue added nine tracks, plus the brand new Steve Earle song "Nowhere Road", sung by Nelson and Jennings). The first of the four "Waylon And Willie" albums is the best, including the witty "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" and "I Can Get Off On You". In his autobiography, Nelson subsequently revealed a constant drug habit, while in his own audiobiography, A Man Called Hoss, Jennings admitted to 21 years addiction in an ode bidding farewell to drugs. The two artists will be remembered for shaking the Nashville establishment by assuming artistic control and heralding a new era of grittier and more honest songs. Whether they justified the tag "outlaws" is a moot point - Jerry Lee Lewis was more rebellious than all the so-called Nashville outlaws put together.

Jennings was tired of his mean and macho image even before it caught on with the public. He topped the US country charts for six weeks and also made the US Top 30 with a world-weary song for a small township, "Luckenbach, Texas", which is filled with disillusionment. Further sadness followed on "I've Always Been Crazy" and "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand?". He aged quickly, acquiring a lined and lived-in face which, ironically, enhanced his image. His voice became gruffer but it was ideally suited to the stinging "I Ain't Living Long Like This" and "It's Only Rock & Roll'. Jennings" theme for The Dukes Of Hazzard made the US Top 30, but the outlaw deserved to be convicted for issuing such banal material as "The Teddy Bear Song" and an embarrassing piece with Hank Williams Jnr., "The Conversation". The latter was included on Waylon And Company, which also featured duets with Emmylou Harris and actor James Garner.

Jennings often recorded with his wife, Jessi Colter, and he and Johnny Cash had a hit with "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang" and made an underrated album, Heroes. His albums with Nelson, Cash and Kris Kristofferson as the Highwaymen were also highly successful. Jennings and Cash had major heart surgery at the same time and recuperated in adjoining beds. A change to MCA and to producer Jimmy Bowen in 1985 improved the consistency of his work, including brilliant reworkings of Los Lobos' "Will The Wolf Survive?" and Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street".

Despite his poor health, Jennings continued to look for challenges and Waymore's Blues (Part II) was produced by Don Was. On the Red Hot And Country video, his thought-provoking "I Do Believe' showed him at his best, questioning religious beliefs. Bear Family Records repackaged Jennings' recordings in a 15-album series, The Waylon Jennings Files, which includes many previously unissued titles. In 1996 he signed to Justice Records and released the impressive Right For The Time, while Sting, Sheryl Crow and Mark Knopfler guested on 1998"s hard-rocking Closing In On The Fire. Ill health hampered Jennings during the latter part of the decade, and in December 2001 his left foot was amputated because of an infection related to diabetes. He died two months later. Jennings had been inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum the previous year.


John Cash

June & John                                                                              John 1995

b. 26 February 1932, Kingsland, Arkansas, USA, d. 12 September 2003, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. One of the giants of American music, Cash made over 70 albums of original material, plus countless guest appearances. His music reflected his love of America, his compassion, his love of life, and, what is often lacking in country music, a sense of humour. Heeding the advice he was given during his one and only singing lesson, "Never change your voice", Cash's limited range proved staggeringly impressive on particular songs, especially narrative ones. Like Bo Diddley's "shave and a haircut" rhythm, he developed his music around his "boom chicka boom", and instilled enough variety to stave off boredom.

Cash traced his ancestry to seventeenth-century Scotland and admitted that he fabricated the much-publicized story that he was a quarter Cherokee. Cash's father, Ray, worked on sawmills and the railway; in 1936, the family was one of 600 chosen by the Federal Government to reclaim land by the Mississippi River, known as the Dyess Colony Scheme. Much of it was swampland, and in 1937, they were evacuated when the river overflowed. Cash recalled the circumstances in his 1959 country hit "Five Foot High And Risin'". Other songs inspired by his youth are "Pickin' Time", "Christmas As I Knew It" and "Cisco Clifton's Filling Station". Rockabilly artist Carl Perkins wrote "Daddy Sang Bass" about Cash's family and the "little brother" is Jack Cash, who was killed when he fell across an electric saw.

After graduating from Dyess High School in 1950, Cash began work in a car factory in Pontiac, Michigan, before signing up for a stint in the United States Air Force. He was posted to Landsberg, West Germany as a radio intercept officer, eavesdropping on Russian radio traffic. Many thought the scar on his cheek was a knife wound but it was actually the result of a cyst being removed by a drunken doctor, while his hearing was permanently damaged by a German girl playfully sticking a pencil down his left ear. Cash taught himself the guitar while stationed in Germany and played in a bar band called the Landsberg Barbarians. After his discharge, he returned to the US where he settled in Memphis, Tennessee with his bride, Vivian Liberto. One of their four children, Rosanne Cash, also became a country singer.

Struggling to make a living as a household appliance salesman, Cash auditioned as a gospel singer with Sam Phillips of Sun Records in Memphis, who told him to return with something more commercial. Cash developed his "boom chicka boom" sound with two friends: Luther Perkins (b. 8 January 1928, USA, d. 5 August 1968, Tennessee, USA; lead guitar) and Marshall Grant (bass). Their first record, "Hey Porter"/"Cry! Cry! Cry!", credited to Johnny Cash And The Tennessee Two, was released in June 1955, but Cash was irritated that Phillips had called him "Johnny", as it sounded too young. "Cry! Cry! Cry!" made number 14 on the US country charts and was followed by "Folsom Prison Blues" (featuring one of his most famous lines, "Well, I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die'), which Cash wrote after seeing a film called Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison. They played shows with another Sun artist, Carl Perkins (no relation to Luther Perkins). Perkins" drummer, W.S. Holland, joined Cash in 1958 to make it the Tennessee Three. Cash encouraged Perkins to complete the writing of "Blue Suede Shoes", while he finished "I Walk The Line' at Perkins" insistence: "I got the idea from a Dale Carnegie course. It taught you to keep your eyes open for something good. I made a love song out of it. It was meant to be a slow, mournful ballad but Sam had us pick up the tempo until I didn't like it at all." "I Walk The Line" reached number 17 on the US pop charts and was the title song for a 1970 movie starring Gregory Peck. Among Cash's other excellent Sun records are "Home Of The Blues", which was the name of a Memphis record shop, "Big River", "Luther Played The Boogie", "Give My Love To Rose" and "There You Go", which topped the US country charts for five weeks. Producer Jack Clement added piano and vocal chorus. They achieved further pop hits with the high school tale "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" (number 14), "Guess Things Happen That Way" (number 11) and "The Ways Of A Woman In Love" (number 24). While at Sun Records, Cash wrote "You're My Baby" and "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby" which were recorded by Roy Orbison and Warren Smith, respectively.

At a disc jockeys' convention in Nashville in November 1957, Sun launched their first ever album release, Cash's With His Hot And Blue Guitar, but Phillips was reluctant to record further LPs with the singer. This, and an unwillingness to increase his royalties, led to Cash relocating to Los Angeles and joining Columbia Records in 1958. His cautionary tale about a gunfighter not listening to his mother, "Don't Take Your Guns To Town", sold half a million copies and prompted a response from Charlie Rich, "The Ballad Of Billy Joe", which was also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. Its b-side, "I Still Miss Someone", is one of Cash's best compositions, and has been revived by Flatt And Scruggs, Crystal Gayle and Emmylou Harris. In January 1960, Cash played the first of his celebrated prison shows at San Quentin (watched by a temporarily incarcerated Merle Haggard).

Cash started to take amphetamines to help make it through his schedule of 300 shows a year; however, his artistic integrity suffered and he always regarded 1962's The Sound Of Johnny Cash as his worst album. Nevertheless, he started on an inspiring series of concept albums about the working man (Blood, Sweat And Tears), cowboys (Sings Ballads Of The True West) and the American Indian (Bitter Tears). The concepts are fascinating, the songs excellent, but the albums are bogged down with narration and self-righteousness, making Cash sound like a history teacher. His sympathy for a maligned American Indian, "The Ballad Of Ira Hayes", led to threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Cash stated, "I didn't really care what condition I was in and it showed up on my recordings, but Bitter Tears was so important to me that I managed to get enough sleep to do it right." For all his worthy causes, the drugged-up country star was a troublemaker himself, although, despite press reports, he only ever spent three days in prison. In October 1965, he was arrested at El Paso airport and was charged with smuggling amphetamines across the Mexican border. He received a suspended jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. Cash's biggest misdemeanour was starting a forest fire for which he was fined $85,000. He wrecked hotel rooms and toyed with guns, and he and his drinking buddy, country singer Carl Smith, rampaged through Smith's house and ruined his wife's Cadillac. Smith's marriage to June Carter of the Carter Family was nearing its end but at that stage, few could have predicted Carter's next marriage.

In 1963, Mexican brass was added to Cash's ominous "Ring Of Fire", written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, which again was a pop hit. Without Cash's support, Bob Dylan would have been dropped by Columbia Records, and Cash had his first British hit in 1965 with Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe". Their offbeat duet, "Girl From The North Country", was included on Dylan's Nashville Skyline, and the rest of their sessions have been widely bootlegged. Dylan also gave Cash an unreleased song, "Wanted Man", and Cash wrote the sleeve notes for Nashville Skyline. One of many quotable statements uttered by Cash at this time was, "I don't dance, tell jokes or wear my pants too tight, but I do know about a thousand songs.' With this in mind, he turned his roadshow into a history of country music. In the 60s it featured Carl Perkins (who also played guitar for Cash after Luther Perkins" death in a house fire in August 1968), the Statler Brothers and the Carter Family. The highlight of Cash's act was "Orange Blossom Special" played with two harmonicas. One night Cash, who had recently been divorced by Vivian, proposed to June Carter on stage in London, Ontario; she accepted and they were married on 1 March 1968. From that point, her career naturally run in conjunction with his as she continued to be a regular and expected member of his show. Their successful duets included "Jackson" and "If I Were A Carpenter", and in 1969 they were voted Vocal Group of the Year. Their son John Carter Cash was born the following year, and during their long and happy marriage Cash went on record several times to state that June saved his life, weaning him away from amphetamine addiction and reinforcing his Christian faith.

In 1968 Columbia finally agreed to record one of Cash's prison concerts, and the invigorating At Folsom Prison is one of the most atmospheric of all live albums. It remains, arguably, Cash's best album and a contender for the best country record of all time. Cash explained: "Prisoners are the greatest audience that an entertainer can perform for. We bring them a ray of sunshine and they're not ashamed to show their appreciation.' The concert took place on 13 January 1968 at Folsom State Prison in Reseda, California, with Cash's jittery state (he had only just started to kick amphetamines) perfectly complementing the inmates" boisterous mood. Cash included "Greystone Chapel", written by an inmate, Glen Sherley, which he had been given by the Prison Chaplain. Sherley subsequently recorded an album with Cash's support, but he died in 1978.

The Folsom Prison concert was followed the next year by a show at San Quentin prison, located north of San Francisco along San Pablo Bay. The concert was filmed for a television documentary and the attendant album release, At San Quentin, sold even more copies than its predecessor (the full, uncensored version of the concert was released 30 years later). Shortly before that concert, Shel Silverstein gave Cash a poem, "A Boy Named Sue". Carl Perkins put chords to it and, without any rehearsals, the humorous song was recorded, giving Cash his only Top 10 on the US pop charts and a number 4 success in the UK. When Cash performed his prison song "San Quentin" ("I hate every inch of you/May you rot and burn in hell/May your walls fall and may I live to tell"), he nearly caused an uprising. The famous image of Cash extending his middle finger to the camera stemmed from this San Quentin concert, taken by official photographer Jim Marshall.

Cash's new-found popularity led to him hosting his own television series from 1969-71, but, despite notable guests from the rock world such as Bob Dylan, the Who and Neil Young, the show was hampered by feeble jokes and middle-of-the-road arrangements. Nevertheless, the show's catchphrase, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", became so well known that both Elvis Presley and the Kinks' Ray Davies sometimes opened with that remark. A far better representation of Cash on the screen can be found in the 1969 documentary Johnny Cash - The Man, His World, His Music. With little trouble, Cash could have been a major Hollywood star, particularly in westerns, and he acquitted himself well when the occasion arose. He made his debut in Five Minutes To Live in 1961 and his best role was opposite Kirk Douglas in the 1971 movie A Gunfight, which was financed by Apache money, although religious principles prevented a scene with a naked actress. He was featured alongside Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson in a light-hearted television remake of Stagecoach and starred in a television movie adaptation of his pool-hall song "The Baron" Cash also gave a moving portrayal of a coalminer overcoming illiteracy in another television movie, The Pride Of Jesse Hallam. He recorded the theme for the US television series The Rebel - Johnny Yuma and, among several previously unissued tracks released on a 1996 Bear Family Records compilation, was his submission for a James Bond theme, "Thunderball".

In the early 70s, Cash championed new singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, writing the liner notes for his first album, Kristofferson, and recording several of his songs. He made a documentary film and double album Gospel Road with Kristofferson, Larry Gatlin and the Statler Brothers, but, as he remarked, "My record company would rather I'd be in prison than in church." He justified himself commercially when "A Thing Called Love", written by Jerry Reed, made with the Evangel Temple Choir, became one of his biggest-selling UK records, reaching number 4 in 1972. Cash often found strength and comfort in religion and went on to record many spiritual albums. One of his most stirring performances was "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?" with the Carter Family. During this period, the public perception of Johnny Cash as an outlaw figure began to assume semi-mythological status. Cash cut an imposing figure with his huge muscular frame, black hair, craggy face and deep bass voice, and unlike other country singers he shunned lavish colours. In his song "Man In Black", he explained that he wears black because of the injustice in the world. In truth, he started wearing black when he first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry because he felt that rhinestone suits detracted from the music.

By opening his own recording studios, House Of Cash, in 1972, Cash became even more prolific. His family joined him on 1974's quirky The Junkie And The Juicehead Minus Me and his son-in-law J.W. Routh wrote several songs and performed with him on 1977's The Rambler. He always followed writers and the inclusion of Nick Lowe, former husband of Carlene Carter, and Rodney Crowell, husband of Rosanne Cash, into his family increased his awareness. His cover versions included the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations", John Prine's "Unwed Fathers", Guy Clark's "The Last Gunfighter Ballad" and a touching cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman". He showed his humour with "Gone Girl", "One Piece At A Time" and "Chicken In Black", but the general consensus is that the passion went out of Cash's recording career during the 70s.

Columbia ended their 28 year relationship with Cash in 1986, a move that greatly rankled the artist. He moved to Mercury Records the same year and found success immediately with the whimsical "The Night Hank Williams Came To Town". He made an all-star album, Water From The Wells Of Home, with Emmylou Harris, the Everly Brothers, Paul McCartney and many others. His 60s composition "Tennessee Flat-Top Box" became a US country number 1 for daughter Rosanne in 1988. In the same year, various UK modern folk artists recorded an album of his songs "Til Things Are Brighter, with proceeds going to an AIDS charity. Cash particularly enjoyed Sally Timms" waltz-time treatment of "Cry! Cry! Cry!". During his late-80s revival, Cash was hampered by pneumonia, a double heart bypass and a recurrence of drug problems. He returned to the stage, however, either touring with the Carter Family or as part of the Highwaymen with Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Nelson, and remained passionate about his beliefs: "A lot of people think of country singers as right-wing, redneck bigots," he says, "but I don't think I'm like that."

In a genre now dominated by new country, Cash found it difficult to obtain record contracts at the start of the 90s, but this worked to his advantage in attracting a new generation of music lovers. He provided the vocals for "The Wanderer' on U2"s 1993 release Zooropa, and the following year he was invited to make an album for Rick Rubin's American label. Rubin, better known for his work with rap acts, helped Cash instigate a new direction to his career with the low-key American Recordings. Featuring just Cash's craggy voice and simple guitar, it reaffirmed the artist's talent for storytelling. Among the many excellent songs on the album were readings of Nick Lowe's "The Beast In Me" and Loudon Wainwright's "The Man Who Couldn't Cry'. An appearance at the UK's Glastonbury Festival the same year also introduced him to a new audience, this time indie and new wave rockers. In the USA, Cash became a media star and was featured on the cover on many magazines (not just music ones). It was an astonishing rebirth of interest. 1996"s Unchained continued his renaissance, with effortless cover versions of Don Gibson's "Sea Of Heartbreak" and the Dean Martin classic "Memories Are Made Of This".

Cash announced he was suffering from Parkinson's disease at a Flint, Michigan concert on 25 October 1997, and was hospitalized with double pneumonia soon afterwards. Later he claimed that he had Shy-Drager syndrome, although this was subsequently stated to be a wrong diagnosis. Cash was actually suffering from autonomic neuropathy, a group of symptoms affecting the central nervous system which made him particularly prone to contracting pneumonia. Nevertheless, he was able to return to the studio to record the third and fourth instalments in Rubin's American Recordings series, Solitary Man (2000) and The Man Comes Around (2002). The latter featured a bleak reading of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt" which was promoted by a stunning video in which the camera lingered unflinchingly on the singer's weathered face. The untimely death of June Carter Cash in May 2003 was a great shock to the singer, who had often relied on his wife to help him through various afflictions. He was to ill to attend the MTV Video Music Awards, at which the video for "Hurt" was up for six awards. He succumbed to complications from diabetes shortly afterwards.

During his lifetime, Cash was made a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Country Music Hall Of Fame, and the Songwriters' Hall Of Fame. He was also the recipient of 11 Grammy Awards. Cash's gigantic contribution to country music's history is inestimable. As he stated, "They can get all the synthesizers they want, but nothing will ever take the place of the human heart."

June Carter Cash

June & John                                            John & June                    Roseanne, June & John 1996

b. Valerie June Carter, 23 June 1929, Maces Springs, Scott County, Virginia, USA, d. 15 May 2003, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The second of the three daughters of Mother Maybelle Carter of the legendary Carter Family. Her mother taught her to play autoharp (and later guitar) and in 1939, she and sisters Anita Carter and Helen Carter were appearing on Border Radio as members of the Carter Family. When the original Carter Family retired in 1943, she sang and played rhythm guitar in the family group, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, on various radio stations, and from 1950 onwards, for many years, they were regulars on the Grand Ole Opry. Although not possessing the finer vocal talents of her two sisters, she did develop a flair for comedy, which she used to good effect in a character she called Aunt Polly.

In 1949, Carter enjoyed a country and pop hit with a duet version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" recorded with comedy duo Homer And Jethro. For a time during the 50s, she was married to singer Carl Smith, with whom she had a daughter Rebecca Carlene, who as Carlene Carter went on to a successful solo career. They toured with Elvis Presley in the mid-50s, but in the early 60s, June began to work with Johnny Cash's show, soon being joined by her mother and sisters. In 1964, her recording with Cash of "It Ain't Me Babe" made both country and pop charts and in 1967, they had a number 2 country hit with their now famous version of "Jackson". She also co-authored one of Cash's most famous songs, "Ring Of Fire". She married Cash on 1 March 1968 and from that point, her career naturally run in conjunction with his as she continued to be a regular and expected member of his show. The following year they were voted Vocal Group of the Year and their son John Carter Cash was born in 1970. Johnny Cash has gone on record several times to state that June saved his life, weaning him away from amphetamine addiction and reinforcing his Christian faith.

Away from her musical partnership with her husband June made the occasional solo record, notably 1975's Appalachian Pride and over two decades later the Grammy Award-winning Press On. She also wrote the autobiographical Among My Klediments and From The Heart, and continued to take occasional film roles the most notable of which was the part of Robert Duvall's mother in The Apostle. She underwent open-heart surgery in May 2003 but went into cardiac arrest shortly afterwards. Her life-support system was terminated several days later.

Tony Williams

Tony was lead singer for the Platters


One of the leading R&B vocal groups of the 50s, they were the first black group to be accepted as a major chart act and, for a short time, were the most successful vocal group in the world. The Platters were formed in Los Angeles in 1953 by entrepreneur/songwriter Buck Ram (b. 21 November 1907, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 1 January 1991). Through his ownership of the Platters' name, Ram was able to control the group throughout their career, and his talent for composing and arranging enabled the Platters to make a lasting impression upon popular music. Their original line-up, Tony Williams (b. 5 April 1928, Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA, d. 14 August 1992, New York, USA; lead tenor), David Lynch (b. 1929, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, d. 2 January 1981; tenor), Alex Hodge (baritone) and Herb Reed (b. 1931, Kansas City, Missouri, USA; bass), recorded unsuccessfully in 1954, precipitating the arrival of two new members, Paul Robi (b. 1931, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 2 January 1989), who replaced Hodge, and Zola Taylor (b. 1934; contralto). Signed to Mercury Records, the Platters secured their first hit in 1955 when "Only You" reached the US Top 5, an effortlessly light performance that set the pattern for subsequent releases, including "The Great Pretender", "My Prayer" and "Twilight Time", each of which reached number 1 in the US charts. "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (previously a hit for Paul Whiteman in 1934), which was an international number 1 hit single in 1958-59, highlighted their smooth delivery and arguably remains the group's best-loved release.

Lead singer Williams left for a solo career in 1961, taking with him much of the Platters' distinctive style. His departure led to further changes, with Sandra Dawn and Nate Nelson replacing Taylor and Robi. With Sonny Turner as the featured voice, the group began embracing a more contemporary direction, evidenced in such occasional pop hits as "I Love You 1000 Times" (1966) and "With This Ring' (1967). During the late 60s, and for a long time afterwards, personnel changes brought much confusion as to who were the legitimate Platters. Sonny Turner and Herb Reed formed their own version, while Tony Williams did likewise. The Platters' legacy has since been undermined by the myriad of line-ups performing under that name, some of which had no tangible links to the actual group. This should not detract from those seminal recordings that bridged the gap between the harmonies of the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots and the sweet soul of the ensuing decade. In the late 80s, Buck Ram continued to keep an eagle eye on the Platters" sold-out appearances at Las Vegas and other US cities. The group were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990, but Ram died the following year.


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