In a recent video, I shared the story of a reel to reel tape that found its way into my possession a couple years back. It had been unearthed quite by accident at an estate sale in in a small town in Iowa in the 1980s, and contained lost interviews from some of the biggest music stars of the 20th Century. In the first video of this series, we listened to an interview of the late, great Carl Perkins – writer of “Blue Suede Shoes” and original Sun Recording artist. If you have not seen that video, I encourage you to click the link in the upper right hand corner of your screen and check it out first. In this video, we will listen to the lost interview of the Man in Black himself…Johnny Cash.
But let me warn you, what you’re about to hear may not conform to your current idea of what Johnny was all about. The modern caricature of Cash as a friend to the hippy or anti-war “dove with claws” gets thoroughly challenged here.
A little back story for those of you who did not see the first video in the series… The interviews on this tape, which to my knowledge have not been heard by anyone in over 50 years, were recorded backstage at a June 1967 concert in Seattle, Washington by Bobby Wootton, a Seattle radio DJ.
Bobby, like Johnny, was a native of Arkansas. He had a deep timbre to his voice and a Southern Arkansas drawl, so the similarities of his voice to Johnny’s are uncanny – to the point that, at times it can be difficult telling whether it’s Bobby or Johnny talking.
At the time of this recording, Bobby’s son was serving in Vietnam and the interviews were made to be broadcast for the troops on Armed Forces radio. America was in the midst of a political divide over the war, and many protests on the home front included the burning of US flags and vitriol toward returning US soldiers. The interview covers these topics, and Johnny pulls no punches in his comments on the anti-war protesters. This is NOT the Johnny Cash as depicted in the recent Netflix documentary “Tricky Dick and the Man in Black”. In this documentary, which culminates with Johnny’s 1970 White House performance, he is depicted as walking an a-political line and not taking sides or speaking out on the social upheavals of the day until after his 1969 concert tour of Vietnam, whereafter he became an opponent of the War.
This interview challenges the notion that Cash was a fence-sitter on the subject of the War, which is something the “Tricky Dick” documentary intentionally or unintentionally whitewashed.
Also of interest in this interview, Johnny talks at length about his recent drug arrest and his affinity for one June Carter, who was not yet his wife.
I believe this to be an important document of a side of Johnny Cash that rarely is seen today and is an important and rare piece of music history.
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