Monday, March 24, 2014

Out Among the Stars: Q & A with John Carter Cash

On his website, John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June Carter Cash, lists his occupation as “preserves the family legacy and is a caretaker to the heritage of his musical ancestors.” 

I was honored to speak with John Carter Cash recently, leading up to the release of the “new” Johnny Cash album, “Out Among the Stars”, in stores Tuesday, March 25th.



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DIRTY ROOTS:  You’re certainly carrying the weight of some heavy names and we’re honored to have you represent them here on Dirty Roots.

JOHN CARTER CASH: Well, you know my parents were just good folk.  They really were good people.  That’s what endures – the nature of the heart – as far as I’m concerned.

Your dad is almost a mythical figure, almost like Babe Ruth, to so many people.

Oh yeah.

I’ve heard so many stories that he was such a presence that he could change the feel of a room when he walked in.  But to you he was ‘Dad’.

He was Dad.  And he was a good-hearted man.  I mean, he really was my best friend for many years.  Dad liked to laugh more than he liked to cry.  Everybody knows him as the “Man in Black”, who was a dark and foreboding figure possibly.  But there was a lot more to the man.  There was so much more to see in his nature and his spirit.  Those who knew him, those who were close to him, knew his sense of humor, his integrity, his caring and gentle nature.

We hear so much about your dad, and I don’t want to leave your mom out.  She seemed like such a wonderful person.

Oh yeah.  She was.  Mom, she offered such a light in her spirit everywhere she went.  She treated people the same.  I mean, she didn’t change from one person to the next in the way she treated people.  She had such a love in her very nature that endures and still is there in strength and beauty.

Your dad is an important figure for me personally and in my musical development.  I got into the American Recordings when they came out.  I was 16 or so at the time and around that time I also started working at a country music radio station that played a lot of the classic stuff.  So, I got into the older stuff at the same time.  What did it mean for his family, and for him, to have those American Recordings and that late-career resurgence?

In the last part of his life, although he often was struggling physically in some ways and was having some rough periods, he still endured.  He still persisted.  The strength of his integrity, the love that was within the man, remained.  And that’s what I hear when I hear those recordings.  That’s what stands out to me.  That was what he carried with him.  That is the beauty that is there.  Even though the frailty is undeniably there, the strength is what endures.  So, it’s very important to me, those recordings that he made in the last part of his life.  That’s truly my favorite of his recordings.

We’re here to talk about the newly released album, “Out Among the Stars”.  One of the early pieces of publicity I saw talked about how it may not be THE missing link, but it may be A missing link between his Columbia years and the American Recordings.  Is that accurate?

Yes, this is a period of my dad’s life that not as many people know about, musically.  Johnny Cash didn’t fit into any mold.  At all.  Maybe at that time period, maybe Nashville was trying to figure out how to make him fit in a mold.  And, maybe, perhaps, Nashville was going in a different direction, away from the integrity.  Luckily, Billy Sherrill went in and made a record with my father, a record of integrity.  A record that is a treasure now for us.  Something that’s true.  Billy was open-minded enough to see the vision that Johnny Cash could only sound like Johnny Cash.  That’s the record that he made.

Of course, Columbia at the time didn’t quite know what to do with it, because they were headed in a different direction.  They, not long after these recordings were done in 1984, dropped my father from Columbia.  Everybody at Sony Legacy, which is Columbia now, agrees that it was the worst decision they ever made.

Gratefully, the guys there have the sight, have the vision now.  I worked with producer Steve Berkowitz, my co-producer on this, to finalize these recordings, because they were unfinished.  We tried not to take away from Billy Sherrill’s original production.  We tried to pay honor to it, not subtract a lot of the music at all.  I mean, why would you want to?  The musicians that are there are masters; Pete Drake, Kenny Malone.  These guys, their music endures.  The strength of what they did is still on these original recordings.

I listened to these recordings and I called Marty Stuart, who played on the original recordings, and I said, “Marty, your guitar playing now is better than it was in 1984.  Why don’t you come in and rerecord your parts?  Why don’t you come back in and re-do your mandolin that you played?”  And so Marty did.  He came into my studio, Cash Cabin Studio here in Hendersonville, and redid his guitar parts and his mandolin.  It sounds wonderful.  Hopefully the listener, when they listen, finds any new recordings seamless, that they fit perfectly with the old recordings.  That’s my goal.  That’s what we tried for, producer Steve Berkowitz and I, in the process.


Can you tell us the story of how you found this album?

Well, my mother and father were packrats.  Truly, they hardly ever threw anything away.  Through their lives together, things they would collect, their music, the things that they would gather along the way, they would put into a storage vault.  So there were literally hundreds and hundreds of recordings that were put away into a storage vault in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  After they passed away it became my responsibility to go through these things, see what all was there, catalog it.

We took all the tapes, with the help of the guys at Sony Legacy; Steve Berkowitz, Gregg Geller, and some of the other folks there.  We shipped it all to New York City.  All of the recordings were transferred to digital and the original tapes were shipped back to me.

When we discovered this record, we saw it as a unique, beautiful body of work.  Here lately, we sort of rediscovered it, the guys at Columbia did, and what a blessing to have it now.

So, is it safe to say there’s potential for more of these kinds of things to come out in the future?

Yes there is.  It’s a great possibility there’ll be more Johnny Cash records to come.  If it’s right.  We try to maintain the integrity of the Johnny Cash Trust and release only things we believe he would’ve wanted released.

We’re very careful with the use of name and likeness also.  My dad’s image we don’t allow for the use of alcohol and tobacco products.  Because that’s what he did.  We try to stay true to his decisions in life.  Not that he didn’t ever smoke or drink, but he just wouldn’t go there.  So that’s the way we try to maintain things.  Integrity.  You know, we don’t want to release it just to release it.

Before we wrap up, I know you have many other projects you work on.  Do you want to put a plug in for any of that in particular?

Anything you want to find out about me, you can go to www.JohnCarterCash.com or you can go to Facebook and find me there.

I produce music.  I’m working with Loretta Lynn.  I’ve got some new music for her coming out later this year, hopefully.  Just a lot of stuff I’m excited about.  I do have a novel out right now, it’s called Lupus Rex.  You can find out about more music that I’ve been involved in, my own and other artists, and production, on my website or on my Facebook page.

At the Dirty Roots Show, we have two key figures.  One of them is Joe Strummer; we call him Our Patron Saint.

There you go, brother!  I love Joe.

And the other one is Johnny Cash.  And we call him Our Founder, because he put me on a musical path that helped get me where I am now.

I like to hear that, that sounds great.

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Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014 Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

RIP Scott "Rock Action" Asheton (The Stooges)
RIP Gary Burger (Monks)

The Stooges – No Fun
The Monks – Monk Chant [live]
The Monks – Monk Time
The Stooges – Down on the Street
Merle Haggard – Mama Tried
Lemmy – It’s A Long Way To The Top
Lee Kristofferson – Night of the Werewolf
Freddie King – Going Down
The Stooges – T.V. Eye
The Strypes – You Can’t Judge A Book
The Strypes – Rollin’ & Tumblin’
Lee Hazlewood – Pray Them Bars Away
Lucinda Williams – It’s A Long Way To The Top
The Monks – Complication
Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power
Dex Romweber Duo – Long Battle Coming
Dex Romweber Duo – Blackout!
Pixies – Blue Eyed Hexe
The Scientists – Last Night
Adrian Lloyd & the Sunsets – Justine
Johnny Cash – Pocahontas
Har Mar Superstar – Lady, You Shot Me
James Keyes – Root For The Bull
James Keyes – Darkness Come Creeping
Dex Romweber Duo – Blue Surf
The Yayhoos – Oh! Chicago
Reverend Horton Heat – Whole Lotta Baby
R.L. Burnside – R.L.’s Story
R.L. Burnside – Miss Maybelle
Pony Boy – The Devil In Me
Merle Haggard – I’m Bringing Home Good News
Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues [live]
Johnny Cash – Orleans Parish Prison
Steve Earle – Hardin Wouldn’t Run
Merle Haggard – Sing Me Back Home
Iggy & the Stooges – Search and Destroy
The Strypes – What the People Don’t See
The Strypes - Hometown Girls


Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 13, 2014 Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Coricidin Bottle
Grindhouse (Main Titles)
Don Williams – Tulsa Time
Al Green – Tired of Being Alone
The Head Cat – Big River
The Head Cat – Shakin’ All Over
Bobby Bare Jr.’s Young Criminals’ Starvation League – Flat Chested Girl From Maynardville
The Sonics – Psycho
Phillipa Fallon – High School Drag
Left Lane Cruiser – Cracker Barrel
Johnny Cash – She Used To Love Me A Lot
Bible Belt Sinners – Lake Michigan
Jason & the Scorchers – Self-Sabotage
Ramones – The KKK Took My Baby Away
The Sir Douglas Quintet – Are Inlaw Really Outlaws
The Bottle Rockets – Floatway
The Bottle Rockets – She’s About a Mover
Jimi Hendrix – Johnny B. Goode [live]
Little Willie John – I’m Shakin’
Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters – Cry Baby
Pony Boy – Trouble
The Pretty Things – Don’t Bring Me Down
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Tramp
Jessica Lea Mayfield – I Wanna Love You
Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man
Bob Dylan – I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) [live]
Mike Ness – Big Iron
Marty Robbins – Don’t Worry
The Band – Chest Fever
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Little Bitty Pretty One
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Ramshackle Day Parade
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – Blitzkrieg Bop [live]
Dropkick Murphys – Amazing Grace
Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up To Boston


Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014 Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Kenny Rogers & the First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My  Condition Was In)
Lydia Loveless – Wine Lips
Aerosmith – Back In The Saddle
Dion & the Belmonts – The Wanderer
Townes Van Zandt – Lungs
Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers – Do You Love Me
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Hasil Adkins – No More Hot Dogs
Pony Boy – If Only He Were You
Bettye Swann – Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)
Kris Kristofferson – Pilgrim’s Progress
Paul Westerberg – World Class Fad
The 101ers – Rabies (From The Dogs Of Love)
Ramones – Needles & Pins
Roberta Flack – Go Up Moses
Bettye Swann – Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)
Nina Simone – Ain’t Got No/I Got Life
Nina Simone – To Love Somebody
The Clash – White Riot
John Doe – Just For the Hell of It
John Doe – Just For the Hell of It
Mink Deville – Venus Of Avenue D
John Paul Keith – Never Could Say No
George Jones – Love Bug
Daniel Johnston – True Love Will Find You in the End
Johnny Cash – I’m a Drifter [Version 1]
Steve Earle – Someday
Steve Earle – Another Town
Tom Waits – Mr. Siegal
Lucinda Williams – Changed The Locks [live]
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – The Last DJ
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Travelin’ Band
Social Distortion – Up Around The Bend
Mike Ness – The Devil in Miss Jones
Andre Williams – I Can Tell
R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe
Esquerita – Sinner Man
Hindu Love Gods – Raspberry Beret
The Rolling Stones – Rip This Joint
Lydia Loveless – Hurts So Bad
Tom Waits – Train Song