15 Strange But True Facts About Johnny Cash

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Who doesn’t love Johnny Cash?

The famed singer broke down barriers between genres, thanks to his unique blend of country, rock, folk, and more.

In honour of the legend, we look at 15 super strange–but very true!—facts about The Man In Black:

15. Cash could translate Russian Morse Code.

When on the air force base in Germany, Cash learnt how to translate Russian Morse Code.

14. “Walk The Line” started out backwards

The guitar sounds in “Walk The Line” started when Cash was on the air force. He listened to a Bavarian guitar on tape, but it was playing on backwards. This inspired the frantic sound you hear on “Walk the Line.”

13. Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison were neighbors

The two music legends lived next door to each other in Tennessee for 20 years. It was Cash who helped get Orbison’s work into the hands of Sun Records executives.

Orbison’s house tragically caught fire, and his two sons died in the accident. Cash bought the lot where the house was and turned it into a memorial.

12. He once recorded a joke song called “Chicken In Black”

It was 1984, and Johnny Cash felt like his record label wasn’t listening to him. So he devised a plan to get their attention: record a preposterous song called “Chicken In Black”, parodying himself. The song was about his brain being transplanted into a chicken’s body.

The song actually got released with an accompanying video. Cash and his label (Columbia) parted ways shortly after.

11. Jimmy Carter was his cousin

Through his marriage to June Carter, President Jimmy Carter became a distant cousin of Cash’s. The two ended up becoming friends and remained close throughout their lives.

10. He was the first person to ever be charged for starting a forest fire in the United States

Johnny Cash was living in his camper van in the desert when an oil leak set part of the Los Padres National Wildlife Refuge on fire. Acres of land were destroyed, and he was fined by the government for the fire.

9. He almost killed an endangered bird species

Killed in that fire were endangered condors–only nine of the reserve’s population survived. Luckily, the total population has bounced up to 446 worldwide.

8. His Elvis Presley impersonation was on-point

While touring in the ’50s, Cash would bust out Presley’s mannerisms and voice to the delight of the crowd.

7. He once set 500 chickens loose in a hotel

While touring with his band The Tennessee Three, Cash bought 500 baby chickens and released 100 on each floor of the hotel he was staying in.

6. Cash survived a 12-day coma

The singer went into the coma after he fell severely in 1993. Doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong. They eventually found Cash was suffering from autonomic neuropathy.

5. The story of his facial scar

Cash had a cyst removed from his face while in the air force, but the procedure didn’t go as smooth as anticipated. This left Johnny with a major scar on the right side of his face.

4. He was the ‘Man in Black’ for a reason

Cash refused to wear anything but black for his live performances. It was the colour he felt most comfortable in.

3. Muhammad Ali wrote Cash a poem

The poem was called “Truth”, and Cash kept the treasured piece from “The Greatest” in his safe.

2. Cash broke his toe while in jail

Cash was once arrested for trespassing in Starkville, Mississippi, and while in his holding cell, Cash broke his toe kicking the bars. Although never officially in prison, Cash served 7 nights in jail throughout his life.

1. …but an ostrich did even more damage

Cash owned ostriches as part of an exotic animal park he had. One of the ostriches escaped his enclosure and confronted Cash. The ostrich struck him down, breaking Cash’s two lower ribs and ripping his stomach open. He was knocked back onto a rock and broke three more ribs.

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