When Cash was born, his parents couldn't agree on a name. His dad, Ray Cash, wanted to name him Ray, while his mom wanted to name him Rivers (her maiden name). In the end, they compromised with "J.R.", which was his full name until he joined the Air Force. The Air Force required more than just initials, so he decided on John R. Cash.
In 1953, Cash was a staff sergeant in the US Air Force. He was stationed in West Germany, and was responsible for intercepting Soviet messages. So when the news went out that Stalin had died, Sgt. Cash was one who intercepted the news, and immediately reported it to his superiors.
Cash was a part of one of the most famous jam sessions in history. On December 4, 1956 at the Sun Record Studios, Carl Perkins was in a recording session when Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, brought in a then-unknown Jerry Lee Lewis to assist. Elvis Presley, already famous by then, happened to stop by, as did Johnny Cash. The jam session that followed has gone down in history as the session of the "Million Dollar Quartet."
Johnny Cash was in Starkville, Mississippi, when he was arrested for picking flowers! He wandered into someone's garden while under the influence, and picked their flowers. He was arrested for trespassing, but was pardoned 42 years later!
Don't worry though, birds got their revenge on Cash. It all started when Cash went to visit the ostriches in an exotic park connected to his studio. One of the ostriches named Waldo wasn't particularly happy to see him, and attacked. Cash was nearly killed, and left with five broken ribs and internal bleeding.
After marrying June Carter, Johnny started turning his life around. He became deeply involved in Christianity, and forged a close friendship with Rev. Billy Graham. His faith became so strong that he went to theology school and became an ordained minister!
One of Johnny's biggest hits, "Boy Named Sue," was actually written by Shel Silverstein. While Silverstein is far more famous for his children's books, such as The Giving Tree, he was also an accomplished songwriter. You can hear his version of the song here.
In the song "Man in Black," Cash explains that he wears black "for the poor and the beaten down." The original reason why he wore black, however, is slightly different. His backup band, the Tennessee Two, wanted to wear matching outfits, and the only shirts they had that matched were black!
Not every song can be a winner. Sometimes, even the greatest artists put out disasters. That was certainly the case with Johnny Cash's "Chicken in Black." "Chicken in Black" is a novelty song about Johnny Cash getting a brain transplant from a bank robber, which makes him rob banks. When he tries to get his old brain back, it has been put inside a chicken and - you know what? Maybe you should just watch the video.
The whole Cash family is brimming with talent! Johnny's wife, June Carter Cash, was a country music legend. His daughter Rosanne has won multiple Grammies, and is in the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame. His son, John Carter Cash, is also an accomplished record producer, singer and songwriter.