Johnny Cash had such a long and varied career which included music, movies, and tv. In the five decades of his career there were many milestones, and it was hard to narrow it down to just 40. I started with Top 10, and said to myself, there is no way I can take a career of this length and sum it up into 10 big moments. So, I increased it to 20, but even that was insufficient. This isn't everything, of course, but I believe this includes some of the most important things that happened to him in his lifetime.
1) It all started with his birth on February 6, 1932. He was born J.R. Cash (no first or middle name) to parents Ray and Carrie Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas. He is the fourth of five children. His brothers were Roy, Jack, and Tommy, and his sisters were Reba and Joann. As a child, gospel songs taught to him by his mother is a major influence on him.
2) His mother Carrie bought him a guitar for his 10th birthday in 1942.
3) Another major event that shaped his life was the accidental death of his older brother, Jack, in a farm accident in 1944. On Jack's gravestone are the words "Meet Me In Heaven," which would later become the title of one of Johnny's songs.
4) After high school graduation in 1950, Johnny enlisted in the Air Force, and was stationed in Germany, where he wrote daily to Vivian Liberto.
5) After being honorably discharged in the Summer of 1954, John moves to Memphis and takes a job selling appliances door-to-door. This was a job arranged by his brother Roy, who worked at the local Chevrolet dealer. He introduces John to two of the mechanics at the garage, Luther Monroe Perkins and Marshall Grant, both guitar-pickers, and together with steel guitarist A.W. 'Red' Kernodle, they form the Tennessee Three. By the end of the year, Kernodle left the band, and John renamed the group the Tennessee Two, and they are able to audition for Sam Phillips of Sun Records, who tells them to drop the Gospel, and stick to Country and Western music.
6) John marries Vivian Liberto on August 7th of 1954.
7) In 1955, Sam Phillips renames J.R. Johnny Cash, and he along with the Tennessee Two record "Hey Porter," and "Cry, Cry, Cry," which becomes John's first single. That same year Vivian gives birth to Johnny's first daughter, Rosanne. By the end of the year, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two release "Folsom Prison Blues," which coincides with their Louisiana Hayride debut.
8) "I Walk the Line" becomes Johnny's first No. 1 hit in 1956.
9) In 1956, Johnny's second daughter, Kathleen is born.
10) Johnny's first album is released in 1957, called Johnny Cash With His Hot & Blue Guitar.
11) In 1957, Johnny realizes a dream to play on the Grand Ole Opry, eventually landing a regular spot, requiring him to return to Nashville each Saturday night for a performance.
12) In 1957, Johnny's third daughter, Cindy is born.
13) In 1958, his Sun contract ends and he signs with Columbia records, and relocates to Los Angeles.
14) In 1960, Johnny performs his first free concert at San Quentin, with 22-year-old inmate Merle Haggard in the audience.
15) The Carter Family joins the Johnny Cash road show in 1961.
16) In 1961, Johnny's fourth daughter, Tara is born.
17) On January 11, 1964, Billboard debuts the new Hot Country Albums chart, where Johnny's Ring of Fire (The Best of Johnny Cash) album is listed at No. 1, where it remains for a total of 14 weeks. It becomes his first RIAA gold album.
18) It was on October 5, 1965 that Johnny Cash was arrested returning from Mexico with possession of 668 Dexedrine and 475 Equanil pills found in his guitar case. He receives a 30-day suspended jail term and $1,000 fine. It was shortly after this incident that Johnny made an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry stoned, and in anger over a faulty microphone stand, takes the stand and drags it across the footlights on the stage. The Opry promptly informs him they won't be needing his services any longer.
19) As his drug use escalates in 1965, Vivian divorces him, and he moves back to Nashville. June Carter steps in and leads him back to Christianity, and helps him kick the drug habit.
20) In 1968, Columbia records the Folsom Prison concert.