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Since his early debut in the 1950s with Sun Records, John R. 'Johnny' Cash has established himself as an icon of American, not just country, music. Johnny"s talent has reached far across the boundaries of musical genres to inspire such rock legends as Ted Nugent, .38 Special, The Eagles and the Rolling Stones. But I doubt you will find anyone working in country today anywhere in the world Johnny Cash"s talent hasn't touched in a positive fashion. His road to the top, though, was paved with the tough times from which most successful country artists learn.

Johnny grew up in the Dyess government resettlement colony in northeastern Arkansas. Here he absorbed the country and gospel feel that would infuse his music later. While absorbing the world around him, Johnny picked cotton and did the other farm chores necessary to help his family. One tragic family event affected Johnny's life and work when he lost his older brother Jack at the age of 14. This changed the tone of his music as he started to sing.

Johnny would listen to local country shows from Memphis, like the Carter Family and Hank Snow on Border Radio. Johnny sang at KLCN radio in Blytheville, Arkansas. After working for a little while in Pontiac, Michigan, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Germany for 4 years. From there, Johnny wrote the soon to be classic tunes "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Hey Porter". Johnny came back to Memphis is 1954 where he got married and began an appliance merchandising business. He also made contact with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, both musicians in order to play gospel music at a local radio station.

After Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Malcolm Yelvington made it big at Sun Records, Johnny and his small band auditioned for Sam Phillips, owner of Sun. On June 21, 1955, the releases of "Cry, Cry, Cry" and "Hey Porter" made Johnny Cash one of the most promising young artists at Sun. Crossover hits like, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and, "I Walk The Line" made Johnny a dominant force in American music from 1956-1958.

In mid-1958, Johnny signed with Columbia Records. While he had several hits like "Ring of Fire" at Columbia, it was here Johnny began to recording concept records like "Blood, Sweat and Tears". One of Johnny's producers, Don Law, encouraged Johnny to connect with the growing folk music movement in the 1960s. One song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" didn't gather the kind of positive response most of Johnny"s music got from programmers. The song was about a Native American World War Two veteran who suffered a tragic end. Johnny responded to this by taking out a full page ad in Billboard asking programmers, "Where's your guts?"

The late '60s saw Johnny fall into the trap of addiction many fellow performers fell into during that time. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1965. But in March of 1968, Johnny married June Carter who helped him through his addiction and made sense of his life. In 1968, Johnny also recorded the live album at Folsom Prison which also gave the world the tune, "Folsom Prison Blues". This album was followed by a live album recorded at San Quentin. This record contained such hits as "A Boy Named Sue" which went to number one on the country charts and number two on the pop charts. Johnny won both the CMA Single of the Year and the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1969. From 1968-1971, Johnny hosted a network variety show which showed his talent and exhibited other artists. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Johnny continued to tour with a powerful musical entourage. Johnny left Columbia Records in 1986 and signed with Mercury Records. He was with Mercury until 1992. He next signed with the American Label, who released the album Unchained". "Unchained contained a variety of pop and country performers backing the legendary Man in Black. The album got Johnny a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Male Country Performance for the song "The Cage". In 1998, "Unchained" won the Grammy for the Best Country Album of the Year.

The descriptive words 'unchained' and 'unbridled' definitely fit Johnny and the living marks he has left on American music.

To find out more about Johnny, go to his website found at: