This is the ninth installment in a series about a book I'm reading called Stories Done, which is a great collection of tales of excess from counter-culture leaders.
Why aren't there more great rock-bio movies being made? Walk the Line, Ray, and The Doors offer proof of how great and rich with content they can be. A movie-industry friend of mine tells me it's often difficult to get the rights from protective family estates.
Anyway, Mikal Gilmore's chapter on Johnny Cash shows, if nothing else, that Walk the Line only touched the surface of great stories about the Man in Black. Here are some other doozies:
-- Johnny Cash was born without a name. "His parents simply called him JR. Years later, they decided J stood for John; they never did figure out what R stood for."
-- His sources of rebellion included, but were not limited to: the death of his brother, the heartlessness of his father, and the confinement he felt in his hometown.
-- As Cash sat writing "Folsom Prison Blues," the line "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" was what came to mind when he tried to think of "the worst reason a person could have for killing another person." He later said that line came to him quite easily.
-- He got thrown out of a hotel in Australia when he and Sammy Davis Jr. staged a fast-draw gun duel in the lobby. They fired off blanks and sent other hotel guests running.
-- He was the first U.S. citizen ever successfully sued by the government for setting fire to a national forest. He paid $125,000 in damages. Cash had been driving a camper through the forest. He knew it was leaking oil, and it caught the sun-hot grass on fire, causing three mountains to torch and driving nearly all 53 of the protected wild condors from the area. He laughed off the incident at trial while high on amphetamines.
-- The Ku Klux Klan picketed some of his shows because his first wife had a dark skin tone. They branded him "a degenerate who had mongrel children."
-- In 1967, he crawled into Nickajack Cave on the Tennessee River and lay down to die. But when an unexpected feeling came over him, telling him he wouldn't die there, he crawled back out and swore off drugs and madness. He soon thereafter married June Carter, and the story ends happily from there.