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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Today is Feb. 26, and as most fans of the Man in Black know, today would have marked the 79th birthday of Johnny Cash. Over his half-a-century career, Cash established himself as a mainstay in country music with classic songs such as ‘I Walk the Line,’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue.’

In honor of Cash’s birthday, Taste of Country has compiled ten interesting facts about the musician that you might not have known. Also, don’t forget to wear black today! Cash’s family has requested that all of his fans don the color to remember Cash and his amazing contributions to not only country music, but to music as an entire art form.

10. For 20 years, Roy Orbison lived next door to Johnny Cash. The men were neighbors in Tennessee, and they often collaborated together.

9. Cash once broke his toes trying to kick the bars out of a jail cell. The incident happened during one of Cash’s seven arrests, and occurred at a jail in Starkville, Miss. after Cash was incarcerated for trespassing.

8. Johnny Cash wasn’t totally fearless. The singer suffered from a fear of flying and a fear of snakes.

7. Cash was allegedly the first person ever to be sued by the U.S. for igniting a forest fire. Cash would often take his camper, Jesse James, out to the desert for methamphetamine binges. One time, the camper had an oil leak that caused the Los Padres National Wildlife Refuge to catch fire. The blaze killed almost every endangered condor in the refuge, to which Cash replied, “I don’t give a damn about your yellow buzzards.”

6. Cash and his bandmates were constantly stirring up trouble in the hotels they frequented while touring. In the late 1950s, Cash and his band bought 500 baby chickens and let 100 loose on each floor of the hotel they were staying at. Another time, Cash and Co. flushed cherry bombs down a toilet, destroying the plumbing system. Cash also stabbed a reproduction of the Mona Lisa that was hanging in a hotel because it didn’t quite reach his standards.

5. When Cash felt his record label was ignoring him in 1984, he intentionally recorded a terrible album. The title of the album was ‘Chicken in Black,’ and the lead song was about Cash having his brain transplanted with that of a chicken.

4. Cash was once attacked by … an ostrich. The ostrich resided on his farm, and one day the bird kicked the singer. The blow from the animal was massive, leaving Cash with five broken ribs and internal bleeding.

3. The scar on Cash’s face is from a botched surgical procedure. While he was in the Air Force, Cash had a cyst removed on his face. Supposedly, the doctor was drunk during the operation and messed up during surgery, leaving the singer with a permanent reminder of that day.

2. Cash drew inspiration from a tape playing backwards for the tune to ‘I Walk the Line.’ Even more surprising is the fact that it was a record of Bavarian guitar music. “[I had] a tape recorder in the Air Force in 1952. And [it] was always only guitar going do-do-do-do-do,” Cash told Larry King in an interview. “Well it got turned around. The tape got in there backwards. And then I played it, it went sh-sh-sh-sh and it had a kind of a drone sound like I finally had on the record.”

1. Cash never did a performance where he wasn’t wearing black. Cash started wearing all-black suits as a good luck charm, because he wore a black T-shirt and jeans to his first live gig. He once told Larry King, “[I've] never done a concert in anything but black. You walk into my clothes closet. It’s dark in there.”

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