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Reflections

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by Eddie Bass

When someone writes an autobiography, they usually start at the beginning and tell their life story sequentially.

That's not the way Johnny Cash does it in his new autobiography, which is titled, appropriately enough, "Cash."

Rather than being a sequential story of his life, "Cash" is a series of anecdotes or vignettes which do a good job of giving the reader an insight into what makes this "man in black" tick.

He even tells you how he got started wearing black during his stage appearances.

"When I'm not performing, I wear whatever color of clothes I want to," he says.

The book dispels a few myths, among them the fact that, contrary to popular belief, he never did serve jail time, and it also takes a hard look at his turbulent past.

The jacket on the book makes the point that "at 65, Cash's extraordinary career spans four decades and a variety of musical styles, including country, folk, gospel and rock."

In fact, the jacket points out, Cash is the only musician in history to be inducted into three prestigious halls of fame: the Songwriter's, Country Music and Rock and Roll halls of fame.

Although he doesn't tell his life story sequentially, Cash does a good job of covering the various eras in his life, including his childhood days of picking cotton in the fields of southern Arkansas and his bouts of addiction to drugs and booze.

He doesn't dwell much on how he got started in the music business. Early in the book, he sort of lays it all out for the reader in a brief synopses of the events of his life.

"My name is John R. Cash," he writes. "l was born on Feb. 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Ark. I'm one of seven children: Roy, the eldest, then Louise, Jack, myself, Joanne and Tommy. We all grew up working the cotton fields.

"I married Vivian Liberto of San Antonio, Texas, when I was 22 and went on to have four daughters with her: Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara. Vivian and I parted, and in 1968 I married June Carter, who is still my wife. We have one child together, John Cash, my only son. June brought two daughters, Carlene and Rosie, to our marriage. Now we have a combined total of 12 grandchildren and so many sons-in-law, past and present, that June makes a joke of it in her stage act.

"My life work has been simple: cotton as a youth and music as an adult. In between I was an automobile factory worker in Michigan, a radio intercept operator for the United States Air Force in Germany, and a door-to-door appliance salesman for the Home Equipment Company of Memphis, Tenn. I was a great radio operator and a terrible salesman. I hated the assembly line."

From that outline of his life, the book flows on for some 300 pages.

I've never seen Johnny Cash perform in person, although I've heard his records and have seen him on TV.

Several years ago, I was present at the ground breaking for what was supposed to be the "Cash Country" theater in Branson. I was inspired by the presence if that's the proper word of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

Cash mentions Branson in his book, but only in passing.

"Conway Twitty and I were alike in a lot of ways," he writes. "We came from the same part of the country and shared the same kind of music, and besides that, I liked him. I thought it was a real tragedy that he died on his bus, of an aneurysm, while he was trying to get out of Branson.

"I've played there, but I'd hate to get hooked into a routine the way it happens to performers who have their own theaters. Two shows a day, every day, for months on end would kill me even quicker than lying around watching TV. Likely as not, it would kill my creativity long before that, so dying just might be a relief."

From what he says in his book, it sounds like it's a good thing the fellow who was building the "Cash Country" theater in Branson went broke.

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