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Episode Timeline

00:10 Introduction

03:06 Commercial

05:23 David Allan Coe

06:33 Screaming Jay Hawkins

09:18 John R. Cash

25:27 On The Record

43:07 On the Road

55:22 Outro

Hello. I am Troy King and this is CASHback.
Before we go any further, let me ask you: what do a former convict, Ireland’s answer to Patsy Cline, and a dead president have in common?

Here’s a hint. When you ride this train, the answer is Johnny Cash. Always Johnny Cash.

Stick around and I’ll tell you all about it.

Now, let me help you get your bearings. If you are looking for the podcast about getting money back when you spend money using some credit card or another, you are in the wrong place. If, however, you are looking for all things Cash, Johnny Cash that is, you are in the right place at the right time and boy are we glad you found us. This is the inaugural trip on the shiny new CASHback Express. Our engine may be new but it still runs on the timeless boom chicka booms and our coal car is full of stories, sessions, legends, lore, myths, and, of course, enough music to take us through this week in Johnny Cash music history. Some of you probably rode with us when we were on the air before. Thank you for booking this return ticket. Others of you may have stumbled onto one of our prior episodes online. This time around you can experience them in real time, exactly as they happen. Others of you wrote to us and asked us to restock the coal bins, stoke the fire in the engine back, and hit the rails again. Your wishes are our commands. And still others of you may have stumbled across our depot totally by accident, never heard of a CASHback, and be wondering what all the fuss is about. For all of you, let me explain. The dictionary defines a “flashback” as a sudden, vivid memory of the past. When those memories are of and about Johnny Cash, they are too special to be just another flashback. They are SO special that they have a special name – CASHbacks. Throughout our trip, we will travel across time and space, lighting candles of remembrance along the way for John R. Cash, his friends, all of their music, and the difference that this man, this one solitary life, made. By the time we finish, I think you will agree that, there WAS a Man. Indeed.
We have to make our final safety checks and we will be right back and ready to roll.

Come Along and Ride This Train

Welcome back!  Do you spend hours scouring the internet for trivia to impress your friends?  Do you need a sure-fire conversation starter?  Maybe you have just always wanted to seem smarter than everyone else in the room.  Well, you have come to the right place.

Think about our weekly trips as rides through Johnny Cash music history if a story involves Johnny Cash it can make our itinerary. Of course, we’ll tell you the ones you’ve heard a thousand times but we’ll strive to tell it in a way you’ve never heard and to include bits and pieces you don’t know.  We equally enjoy finding other stories you may have never heard; if it eventually connects to Johnny Cash no story is too obscure for us. No matter how hard it may be to imagine when we start, trust me, every detour and every rail spur we take is – eventually, returns to the Johnny Cash mainline. 

You can just settle back in your seat and just enjoy the ride.

So come along and ride this train and, before we return to the station, you’ll be well on the way to earning your degree in Advanced Cashology. 

If there aren’t any questions, let’s get underway.

Come along and ride this train with me back through the mists of time and across the week of September 6th through September 12th.  Every detour and stop that this train makes will be at the site of something that happened this week in Johnny Cash music history.

Come along and ride this train to Akron, Ohio, where David Allan Coe was born on September 6th, 1939, this week in Johnny Cash music history.  Growing up, David spent more time in reform schools, jails, and prisons than he spent at home.  His first brush with the law landed him in the Starr Commonwealth Reformatory for Boys when he was just nine years old.  Convictions for robbery and grand theft auto resulted in incarcerations in the Ohio Penitentiary and Marion Correctional Institution. 

Ultimately, Coe dubiously claimed that he served time on death row for killing a fellow inmate who had made sexual advances towards him.  No one but Coe may ever know the truth and he’s not talking.  When “Rolling Stone” magazine questioned the factual nature of this claim, Coe responded by writing “I’d Like to Kick the (BEEP) Out of You.”  True or not, the story certainly feeds the colorful mythology that led to Coe being dubbed the mysterious rhinestone cowboy.  Regardless of where his cell was located or what he did to get there, one thing that is certain is that, egged on by Screaming Jay Hawkins, who had served time with Coe, Coe began writing songs.  After he was paroled in 1967, he moved to Nashville where he took up residence in a hearse that he kept parked outside the Ryman Auditorium.  His flamboyance soon caught the attention of Plantation Records executives who signed Coe to their label.  Plantation was the original home to the gimmick record and Coe fit right in.  His first album was autobiographically menacingly, if also appropriately, titled “Penitentiary Blues.”

Although hits of his own eluded him, others had more success with his compositions – Billie Jo Spears took “Souvenirs & California Mem’rys” up the charts to #68 in 1971 and Tanya Tucker took “Would You Lay With Me In A Field Of Stone” to #1 on the country charts and #46 on the Hot 100 charts in 1974.  Its fact, that song ended 1974 as the 16th biggest selling record of the year. 

It took a while but eventually, Cash covered “Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone” and included it on his “American III: Solitary Man” album when it was released on October 17th, 2000. In Cash’s hands, it was distilled to its hauntingly beautiful essence.

On the strength of these hits by others singing his songs, Columbia Records signed Coe to its roster in the mid-1970s.  Cash and Coe now shared a musical stable.

They wasted no time in working together.  On October 22, 1974, during the sessions that produced Cash’s “John R. Cash” album, which can charitably be described a bizarre experiment that resulted in the Johnny Cash Disco Project.  The idea had been to reinvigorate Cash’s career by having him cut some of the best new songs by the best new writers and then to send the vocal tracks off to Los Angeles where super producer du jour, Gary Klein, would add the instrumentation.  Now, the vocals are great.  The session players are the best and even include a number of the members of Elvis Presley’s TCB touring band including James Burton on guitar and Ron Tutt on drums.  The songs are perfect Cash material.  In fact, some of the best deep cuts from the Cash catalogue call this album home.  If you have never heard “Jesus Was Our Savior (And Cotton Was Our King)” and “Clean Your Own Tables,” you should pull the emergency stop cord in your car right now, pause our trip right now, and listen!  Don’t worry.  We’ll wait for you. 

Sonically, the arrangements, though, are as far from Cash’s patented sound as you can get.  Here, from those sessions and that album is a glimpse into what could have been.  It’s the highlight of the album and a great romp between two outlaws.  It’s the story of “Cocaine Carolina.”

In January of 1975, Johnny Cash’s fifth gospel album, “Precious Memories” was released.  Dedicated to Cash’s older brother, Jack, who had died in a gruesome table saw accident when they were boys, the album was comprised of classic hymns recorded and reunited Cash with the sounds of a full orchestra . . . and not just any orchestra either but the Bill Walker Orchestra, yes, the same Bill Walker and the same orchestra that had backed Cash on his ABC television show.  In his dedication, Cash wrote:

“This album is dedicated to my late brother, Jack D. Cash.
Dear Jack,
We lost you one sad day in May, 1944. I was twelve years old. Some of these songs were the songs we sang at your funeral. As you were dying, you gave us a description of heaven and singing angels. Could these be some of the songs that the angels were singing? See you later.
Your little brother,
J.R.”

David Allan Coe provided the liner notes for the album. From the outtakes of that album, here is “Lily of the Valley,” which lay on a studio vault shelf until 2010 when it was added to a Reader’s Digest ‘s “Timeless Inspiration” gospel music boxed set almost as an afterthought. Few copies of this set were produced, it was only ever sold through Reader’s Digest’s catalogue, and, as a result, it never found a broad audience. Listen and you’ll feel like you are sitting on a hard, wooden pew in a little country church wondering why so few have ever heard this music.
It took a little trial and error but, by the time Coe’s second album for Columbia was released, Coe had a bona fide country music classic in the can, on the market, and rising up the charts, a song he called “the perfect country and western song,” “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” And he wasn’t exaggerating either. One listen and you will be hard pressed to disagree. It touches every country music trope and I dare you to try to listen without singing along. Released in June of 1975, it topped out its chart run at #8. Time and timeless songwriting and production have been kind to this one. It now enjoys far greater status as a classic than its chart position would have predicted.

In 1976, Coe name-checked Cash and his patented sound in his “Long-Haired Redneck”. The song was the lead single from the album of the same name, captured Coe’s outlaw attitude, and cracked the Top 20, rising all the way to number 17 on the country charts.

The next year, Johnny Paycheck cut the Coe-penned “Take This Job And Shove It.” That record was a smash, rising to number 1. In fact it became the biggest success of Coe’s career and he didn’t even sing a note of it.


A visit from Shel Silverstein to Coe’s Key West home led to a major change in the trajectory of Coe’s career. Silverstein played his comedy album, “Freakin’ at the Freaker’s Ball” and Coe reciprocated by playing some of his own novelty songs. Silverstein encouraged Coe to record them. Coe did. As with everything in Coe’s life, that led to trouble when Jimmy Buffet accused Coe of ripping off the melody from Buffet’s “Changes in Latitudes” and using it for his own “Divers Do It Deeper.” I will let you make your own mind about that one. A nasty feud ensured between the artists. For his part, Coe vehemently denied Buffett’s charges and took the accusation personally. Buffet never filed suit to prove his allegation saying, “I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of having his name in the paper.”
In the 1980’s, Coe experienced a rejuvenation of his career when he hit the top ten twice – with the haunting “The Ride” in 1983 and again with “Mona Lisa’s Lost Her Smile” in 1985. In between, in 1984, he recorded “She Used to Love Me A Lot.” It barely missed the top ten. Johnny Cash cut his version of the same song on June 11, 1984 at the 1111 Sound Studios in a storied set of sessions helmed by super producer Billy Sherrill. Cash’s version lay unreleased until it was unearthed and included on the long lost “Out Among the Stars” album 30 years later when it hit stores on March 25th, 2014. Truly, this release is all the proof you need that late is better than never. Now Coe’s version was released on December 3rd, 1984, as the lead single from his “Darlin’ Darlin’” album. Without disrespecting the Coe version, Cash’s voice was in fine form and his take was definitive. One has to wonder if, given the proper attention, Cash would not have had the bigger hit had the versions been released to compete with each other back when they were first cut. One thing we don’t have to wonder about is which version would make the bigger impression. The answer came, when the album with Cash’s version became a number 1 country hit and rose all the way to number 3 on the Billboard 200 charts.

When Cash was unceremoniously, but necessarily dropped from the Columbia label in the mid-1980’s, Coe was still signed to the label but he refused to record for them any longer out of protest and, instead, he sat out the rest of his contract. Don’t take my word for it, Coe said so himself.


Coe’s connections to Cash are not all musical either – he had bit parts in two made-for-television western movies vehicles for Cash in the mid-1980s: “The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James” and “Stagecoach.”


In 1998, Coe released an album of Cash covers filled with boom chicka booming versions of many of Cash’s biggest hits. In the liner notes to that release, Coe summed up his magnificent Cash obsession, “In the little house I rent in Nashville I’ve got one wall that has only Johnny Cash gold records and pictures on it. But of all the things I have that connect John and I together, my most prize possession will be this album of Johnny Cash songs. When I first heard ” Folsom Prison Blues ” and “I Walk The Line” it was still “Doin My Time”. Then I was free when ” Ring Of Fire” was burning up the charts. I love “Hey Porter” because my step dad who worked on the railroad, would tell me stories when I was a kid. Of course, divorce made me “Cry Cry Cry. ” My heart was with my daddy, who worked in those Detroit factories. That’s why his favorite song was “One Piece At A Time.” There are so many great Johnny Cash songs that it was hard to choose which ones to do on this collection. I hope people to like the way sing John’s songs. I did them because I wanted to, and because Johnny Cash is a friend of mine.”

Today, Coe, long haired and more tattooed than ever, continues his bad-assery as he occasionally records and relentlessly tours. This week in Johnny Cash music history, we remember country music’s mysterious rhinestone cowboy, David Allan Coe by lighting a candle on the birthday cake for him.

If you look out your window just about now, you’ll see a sidetrack. There are some interesting stories down that rail spur about how a ditch digger, Jimmy Rodger’s widow, and a gun wielding drunk are all interconnected. Sadly, we don’t have enough time to make the detour on today’s trip.

Wait a minute! Why all the sad faces? What’s that?

You want to make that trip. Well, ok. I tell you what, click on the link below today’s episode that takes you our member’s exclusive site. A special day trip is leaving from there . . . just about the time we get back. Plus, by signing up now, you will also enjoy a special designation as a “Founding Ember” of the CASHback Podcast.

I hope to see you when THAT train heads out! Now back to our trip. . .

Come along and ride this train with me fifteen miles outside Chicago to Freeport, Illinois, where, this week in history, Charles Julius Guiteau was born on September 8th, 1841. Guiteau was the fourth of six children born to Luther and Jane Guiteau. Guiteau’s mother died when he was 7. As a boy, young Charles’s father believed him to be insane, had him treated for insanity, and, eventually, disowned him. As a young man, Guiteau inherited $1,000 from his grandfather and planned to use it to enroll in New York University. Unfortunately, those plans didn’t pan out when he flunked the entrance exam.

After that, he drifted – joining and then quitting and rejoining and then being expelled from the Oneida Community cult, the original home of “free love”; gaining a law license in Chicago, only to be forced from his practice with only angry clients and judges to show for his efforts (or lack of effort); working as a bill collector; and even taking a turn behind the pulpit. The only thing he seemed good at was failing. After surviving a shipwreck on June 11, 1880, Guiteau became convinced that he had been spared for a purpose. He turned to politics at a time when the Party was fractured. With Republican incumbent president Rutherford B. Hayes so unpopular he could not win nomination, much less re-election, he declined to run. Civil War hero and General Ulysses Grant stepped out of retirement to fill the void, offering himself for an unprecedented third term. Guiteau cast his lot with Grant, even writing a speech supporting his election. In June of 1880 when the Republican Convention convened at the Interstate Exposition Building in Chicago, there were 14 men seeking the nomination. Pre-eminent among them were Grant and James Blaine. These men represented very different wings of the Party. When the Republican National Committee broke down with no consensus on a candidate after 35 rounds of balloting. In an unlikely turn of events, Ohio’s senator-elect, James Garfield, who had been serving as a delegate and convention campaign manager for one of the lesser known candidates, John Sherman (who was also the brother of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman), was nominated for president. Once Garfield was nominated as his party’s standard-bearer, Guiteau went to the Garfield campaign headquarters in New York and volunteered to serve as a surrogate speaker for Garfield. The only speech he ever gave was to a small group of black voters in New York and even that speech was botched when Guiteau was so overtaken by stage fright that he could hardly talk. The speech was the same speech Guiteau had drafted to support Grant with one change – he struck through every reference to Grant and replaced it with Garfield. When the votes had all been tallied, Garfield won a squeaker of an election, beating Winfield Scott Hancock. Despite having done virtually nothing to elect Garfield, Guiteau nevertheless delusionally gave himself much of the credit for Garfield’s election and expected to be rewarded. Not bashful, he went big and asked to be appointed the Minister to Austria but he was willing to settle for American consul to Paris, a request that was insanely out of proportion to the contribution he had made to Garfiled’s campaign. In fact, he had probably cost him more votes than he won him, totally unqualified and in a surprise to no one but Gutteau, he was not only passed over but, eventually, banned from the White House waiting room.

Rebuffed, he borrowed $15 and bought a gun. He paid extra for one with an ivory handle because he believed that it would look the best on display in a museum one day. In one of history’s greatest ironies, although the pistol was recovered after Garfield’s murder and although it was photographed by the Smithsonian Institution for posterity, it is not on display anywhere because it was subsequently lost.


Guitteau began target practice . . .and for good reason. History tells us that the first time he fired the revolver, it nearly knocked him over. He also began stalking President Garfield. On July 2nd, 1881, Guiteau got his chance. The President entered the Baltimore and Potomac Railway Station to board a train to travel on vacation with his wife. Guiteau stepped out and shot Garfield in the back as the President made his way through the station. Guiteau then yelled, “I did it. I will go to jail for it. I am a stalwart and Arthur will be president!” While being hustled through the bloodthirsty mob that gathered in the aftermath of the shooting, Guiteau promised one of the policeman who was charged with getting him safely away that he would make the officer police chief once he was President. While confined, Guiteau bragged to anyone he met that God would vindicate him saying, “Some people think I am the greatest man of the age and that my name will go into history as a patriot by the side of Washington and Grant.” This claim was even eventually published in the New York Times.

Garfield died eleven weeks later, less from the gunshot and more from the malpractice of his doctors who used unsterilized equipment to “treat” hm.

Guiteau was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty and insisted on representing himself in the sensational trial that followed. Although the prosecution (and most of the public) believed Guiteau sane, his trial antics – which included cursing at the judge, the witnesses, the prosecutors, and even his own lawyers; passing notes to random spectators asking for legal advice; dictating an autobiography that ended with a personal ad looking for “a nice Christian lady under the age of 30 years of age;” and testifying using epic poem – certainly called that into question. He even asked President Chester Arthur to pardon him in gratitude for Guiteau’s role in making Arthur president. Perhaps, the only same part of his defense was his argument that he had not killed Garfield, he had only shot him. It was the doctors, Guiteau argued, who killed the president. Guiteau was convicted.


Two days prior to the one year anniversary of Guiteau’s shooting of Garfield, Guiteau danced his way to the gallows.

His last request – to have an orchestra play at his hanging – was denied. He read a long poem from the gallows as his final words.
The executioner then fitted the black hood over his head and placed the noose around his neck. The executioner had agreed to release the trapdoor upon Guiteau’s signal – dropping the paper. On cue, Guiteau dropped the paper, the trapdoor opened, and Guiteau’s neck snapped. Guiteau was sure to the death that his place in history was secure. He would probably like it that 139 years later we are still talking about him.

Although he was originally buried in the jailyard cemetery, Guiteau’s body was eventually disinterred. Today, part of Guiteau’s bones and Garfield’s ribs reside together at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

As with many sensational news stories of that day, Guiteau’s deeds were memorialized in a ballad. They were passed down and, eventually, Rambling Jack Elliott adapted it into what was one of Cash’s favorites – at least based on the number of times he recorded it – five.

Cash cut it first on March 11th and May 12th, 1965 at Columbia Studios in Nashville with Don Law and Frank Jones producing. One of these versions was included on Cash’s “Ballads of the True West” album later that year. In fact, it was the only single lifted from that album. It entered the charts on July 10th, 1965, and spent 13 weeks, peaking at #15.

Cash recorded it again on December 10th, 1970. This version was part of a set of songs that were to be sent on the Apollo 14 space flight. When those plans fell through, it was included on Cash’s “America: A 200 Year Salute in Story and Song” album in 1972.

Cash recorded it a fourth time on June 9th, 1975, with June Carter and her daughter, Rosey, joining him. This version remains unissued.


Finally, in the fall of 1981 and likely inspired by failed assassination attempts on the lives of Pope John Paul and President Ronald Reagan earlier in the year, Cash joined Merle Kilgore and Hank Williams, Jr. for a spirited studio cut that was released by Elektra Records and contained a special message for those who would take up arms against our leaders.
As we mark Charlie Guiteau’s life, his infamy, his deeds, and his death, on his birthday, we pray that we have seen the last of the kind.
The next leg of our journey contains several stops. For most of his life, if you were looking for Johnny Cash you would likely find him in one of four places: the studio, where you never knew who might show up to sing with him. The charts which, for a time, were tracked on a chart called Cashbox, for a reason, because the Charts belonged ton Johnny Cash. On stage and honoring his God. This week and every week we will stop by all- that’s a lot of ground to cover. Let’s get going.

On the Record

This week, like every week, Johnny Cash was back in the studio. On September 6th, 1989, Cash entered the Bradley Barn Recording Studio in Mount Juliett, Tennessee to record two songs with the lady being heralded as the Irish Patsy Cline, her name? Sandy Kelly. Cash had met Kelly through Waylon Jennings who had been bragging about her talent. After meeting her during a tour of Ireland, Cash invited her to Nashville to record with him. These are the result of those recordings. Together, they cut “Ring of Fire” and a new song, “Woodcarver.” They appeared on Kelly’s “I Need to be in Love” album.
Although it may be unfamiliar to many statesiders, “Woodcarver” was a #12 hit for the duo in Ireland in March of 1990. Their version of “Ring of Fire” hit #21.

On the Charts

As always, Johnny Cash was making country gold on the charts this week in music history. On May 15th, 1958, “You’re the Nearest Thing to Heaven” was recorded at the Sun Records Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. It debuted on the charts at #7 on September 1st of that year. This week in Johnny Cash music history, during the week of September 8th, it had climbed to number 3. Ultimately, it would peak at number 2, where it remained for four weeks. In all, it would spend a total of 16 weeks on the charts during its chart run. How sweet it is! Classic Cash!

On the Road

It’s that time again, Cashaholics! Road trip!
This week, like every week, Johnny Cash was out on the road. Thanks to our friends and the curators of all our live recordings, the Johnny Cash Info Center, there is no reason that you cannot join Johnny Cash, live, on stage, and in his prime. Each week, we catch up with Johnny Cash out on a road that, more likely than not, brought him to your town. This week, we find him at the Harbor Lights Pavillion in Boston, Massachussetts, on September 11, 1997. Cash was in the midst of an unprecedented late career revival and was promoting his newest record – “Unchained.” On that album (and on our stage this week), Cash revisits and reinvigorates a song he first cut at Sun Studios in the 1950s. The song – “Country Boy.” It sounds as fresh today as it did in 1957.

You may want to go ahead and move out of your seats and into the aisles where there is more room to cut loose with Cash as he touches his rockabilly roots once more.
Shhh! The Man is taking the stage.
On his Knees

Johnny Cash no longer accepts on faith what’s on the far side banks of Jordan, he has seen it for himself.

Each week at this time, we remember the gospel side of Johnny Cash as we slow our train down. As our gospel song this week, we play Cash singing one of the songs that was sung at both his and June Carter Cash’s funerals. Four days after his death, Cash’s family and friends gathered. The funeral featured one of the Cashes’, Johnny and June, favorite songs of hope and inspiration – “Angel Band.”


“Angel Band” was written by Jefferson Hascall and set to a melody that was composed by William Bradbury. Bradbury was born on October 6, 1816, in York Maine, to a choir director father. Although he also started the Bradbury Piano Company, he is best remembered, not his pianos or even for a song that he played on one of those pianos, but for another song that he wrote – “Jesus Loves Me” – in 1862. Bradbury died on January 7th, 1868, in Montclair, New Jersey.

Back to our song, Cash often referred to “Angel Band” as his wife’s favorite hymn and they often sang it together in concert. He also recorded a studio version of it on January 24th, 1979, and included it on the excellent “A Believer Sings the Truth” album when it hit stores that year. It enjoyed a wider release when it was remastered and issued on 2012’s seminal Cash gospel collection – “Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth.” Here’s how it sounded then . . . and it still does.
Bow your heads boys, it’s gospel time.


He bore Johnny away to his eternal home and his truest love, June, who, no doubt, was waiting for him, sitting, drawing pictures in the sand, and who rose up and ran to meet him as he waded ashore through the shallow waters.


This week, in just a moment, we will make one last unannounced stop where we will remember the remarkable like of John R Cash. This week in Johnny Cash music history, 18 years after his death.

Outroduction

Thank you for joining on this inaugural episode of CASHback. There’s plenty more where this came from and we hope you be aboard each week when we pull out.

During our trip, I hope you learned something you didn’t know and heard something you liked. If so, would you like our Facebook page, review our podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts, and invite at least one friend to ride along with us next week? We’ll save them a seat!


Just a reminder, if you prefer, there are complete transcripts to each episode on our website at theCASHbackshow.com. You can read along (or instead). There are also links to all the music you heard during this episode. Remember that much of the music we play has a Johnny Cash cover counterpart. Like the original? There’s a link to it. Prefer to hear the master’s spin on it, if there is one, there’s a link to it too. Many of the resource materials used to create this episode are also linked there. By using these links, you’ll help keep Johnny Cash’s memory alive and our show on the air by supporting our work here at CASHback Studios when you buy things you were going to buy anyway. We thank you.


I hope you will join us again next week for another episode or CASHback. Until the next time that I ride the airwaves back through your town, this is Troy King reminding you to kindly keep it Cash.


Now for the most important part of our show:
You may have noticed that today’s train is bedecked in black bunting. There is a good reason and we could not disembark without taking special notice of it. This entire show is dedicated to the remembrance of a black letter day that casts a pall across this entire week in Johnny Cash music history. Eighteen years ago, on September 12th, 2003, for the first time in 71 years, the golden throat fell silent and the universe had to come to terms with a world that had no Johnny Cash in it. Gone was his social conscience. Gone was his wacky sense of humor. Gone was his ability to unite those who were otherwise divided socioeconomically, politically, religiously, geographically, and culturally.


We pause to pay our respects at the casket that held Johnny Cash, its polished black gleaming. As we do, we thank God that no casket or, as Cash himself powerfully sang, no grave could hold his body down and that death could not silence him. Instead, his music plays as loudly today as it did while he breathed.


This could be a sad occasion if we didn’t know that he is now reunited with beloved June in a place they often sang about and to which they longed to go and where they have rejoined the unbroken circle at the throne. Even as we mourn the man, though, we thank God for his life and for the music he made, music that death could not silence and which we now proudly play. I think he would like that.

Take off your hats, boys, and pay your respects.
Amen.

This week, as we all wear an extra layer of black, we honor Cash in the way he might like best – by picking up where he left off and making good on his promise to, now more than ever in his absence, carry off a little darkness on our backs. ‘Til things are brighter, may we all be men and women in black. We may not be able to fill his shoes, but we can certainly walk the road he cut and follow his example. I will. Will you?
See you next week.

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