Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Thousand Miles Behind

I'm just one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind...

I met Johnny Cash in the summer of 1973.

The Man in Black had just performed a show in my hometown to a small but appreciative crowd and was winding down afterward at a private hotel dining room not far from the concert venue. I had caught the show and wanted to meet the great country music star.

The hotel dining room had been reserved that night exclusively for Cash and his entourage as a private relax space after the show. I had worked at the hotel as a young kid so I decided to make my way there after the show to see if I could get an audience with the legendary singer himself. In fact, I wanted to give him a copy of a new #1 hit record of a song I had written for Canada's top country music group of that time, The Mercey Brothers, who recorded for RCA.

I was all of 19 and quite nervous about meeting a major star like Johnny Cash. I was also new to the strangely impersonal feelings of sudden success I was experiencing as a new songwriter. I felt a certain sense of destiny guiding me however and I gladly followed.

The scene of that dining room was familiar to me of course as I casually opened the main door to enter. Still, I was not quite sure what to expect as I walked in and encountered three individuals seated around a big circular table right in the middle of the floor.

There was no one else in the room but these three and myself.

Two familiar faces looked right up at me and smiled a very warm and sincere welcome in my direction telling me to "come in, come join us". These warm friendly people were none other than Johnny Cash's loving wife and music partner June Carter Cash and their close friend, the legendary rockabilly artist/songwriter, Carl Perkins.

The Man in Black himself was seated with his back to the door but turned around as I entered the room to see who it was that June and Carl were welcoming to their private table and that's when I found myself face to face with the legendary Johnny Cash.

It is a moment in time I will never forget.

Frank revisits the Charlottetown Hotel dining room and the table where he once met and talked with Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and legendary rock-a-billy cat Carl Perkins

I gave "J.R." the record I wanted to present to him. He received it very graciously while politely introducing me to his wife June Carter Cash and to their good friend and fellow band member Carl Perkins. THE Carl Perkins...yes, that’s right, the same Carl Perkins who wrote Blue Suede Shoes for Elvis...rock-a-billy hero to The Beatles who recorded several of his songs and George Harrison's musical idol.

We talked about country music and Nashville and agreed that if I were ever in Nashville someday that I'd have to come by for a visit at their home in Hendersonville. I promised I'd be there someday.

God Bless their hearts.

We're just one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind.

The experience of meeting such legendary musical icons simply gathered together as friends around a table is absolutely one of my most precious memories of all time. Especially now that all three of them, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash & Carl Perkins have since passed on from this world to join that "family circle in the sky".

The circle that remains unbroken by and by.

Johnny Cash was one of the greatest and most successful music artists of his generation. His unique musical style represents the definitive intersection between folk, country & rock 'n roll.

Johnny Cash transcended musical boundaries and was one of the most respected artists of all time. He was true to the very end to the spirit of creative freedom and he will forever be remembered as a cultural touchstone and as an enduring icon of popular music.

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