Ring of Fire Johnny Cash
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Johnny Cash began his career in music at a similar time to Elvis Presley, though the latter was already a major hit. Elvis’ rise to fame was incredibly quick, while Johnny’s took longer, with him travelling on tours with other musicians to make his name. Now, both are considered icons of rock ‘n’ roll, and they even took part in what is now called the Million Dollar Quartet.
Were Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley friends?
The paths of Cash and Presley crossed several times during their careers, and The Man in Black singer considered them to be friends.
According to Cash, he and Elvis shared some good times together and had a great admiration for each other’s work.
One of these ‘good times’ is what is now known as the Million Dollar Quartet, which saw Johnny, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins record together during an impromptu jam session in December 1956.
It turns out this famous day was fun for many, but according to Johnny, showed how there was some ‘attitude’ between some of the performers.
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He said in his autobiography: “I was there – I was the first to arrive and the last to leave, contrary to what has been written.
“I was just there to watch Carl record, which he did until mid-afternoon, when Elvis came in with his girlfriend.
“At that point the session stopped and we all started laughing and cutting up together.
“Then Elvis sat down at the piano, and we started singing gospel songs we all knew, then some Bill Monroe songs…
“I forget exactly when Jerry Lee came in, but I remember clearly when Elvis invited him to take over at the piano and he launched into Vacation in Heaven.
“That was the first time I ever heard Jerry Lee, and I was bowled over.
“He was so great that the next thing I remember, Elvis and his girlfriend were gone…”
For Johnny, two things stood out after that event, one of which was the image which has now become famous, as he believed Elvis’ girlfriend was originally in the picture.
Though he never said who the girlfriend was, Johnny seemed to imply she had been removed from the image.
The other takeaway was about how the group felt about one another, which he suggested could have been due to some jealousy.
He added: “If you’re wondering why Elvis left right after Jerry Lee got started, the answer is simple: nobody, not even Elvis, ever wanted to follow Jerry Lee.
“And no, I don’t remember Jerry Lee ever saying anything disparaging about Elvis.
“He didn’t have an attitude about Elvis especially; he just had an attitude.”
Despite these relationships being complicated, Johnny and Elvis’ seemed to be more simple, as Johnny has said they were friends in their early days, and some unkind rumours about The King were borne out of ‘jealousy.’
Johnny added: “Elvis was such a nice guy, and so talented and charismatic – he had it all – that some people just couldn’t handle it and reacted with jealousy. It’s only human, I suppose, but it’s sad.
“He and I liked each other, but we weren’t that tight – I was older than he was, for one thing, and married, for another – and we weren’t close at all in his later years.
“I took the hint when he closed his world around him; I didn’t try to invade his privacy.
“I’m so glad I didn’t, either, because so many of his old friends were embarrassed so badly when they were turned away at Graceland.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, he and I chatted on the phone a couple of times and swapped notes now and again.
“If he were closing at the Las Vegas Hilton as I was getting ready to open, he’d wish me luck, that kind of thing – but that was about the extent of it.”
For Johnny, the early Elvis was the one he chose to remember, admitting they enjoyed ‘girls and cheeseburgers’ together in the beginnings of their career.
He added: “I’ve heard it said that here at the end of the century, we all have our own Elvis, and I can appreciate that idea, even though my Elvis was my friend, flesh and blood in real life.
“Certainly, though, my Elvis was the Elvis of the 1950s. He was a kid when I worked with him…
“We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in general, not just with the girls.
“It was nice that we could make a living at it, but every one of us would have done it for free.
“And you know, Elvis was so good. Every show I did with him, I never missed the chance to stand in the wings and watch. We all did. He was that charismatic.”
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