Johnny Cash is featured on the cover of the Tennessee edition of Oxford American magazine’s annual Southern Music Issue, which includes an essay by Rosanne Cash and family photos. The magazine can be purchased at OxfordAmerican.org. Here is an excerpt from the Rosanne Cash essay, entitled “Long Way Home.”
I was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis on a muggy evening just before eight p.m. in late May 1955. Two months later, my father’s very first single, “Hey Porter,” backed with “Cry, Cry, Cry,” was released on Sun Records, a small record label and recording studio at 706 Union Avenue in downtown Memphis. Sun was owned by Sam Phillips, a young music entrepreneur, recording engineer, and record producer. The building still stands, essentially as it was in the early 1950s when my dad, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins created their first recordings. Now it is a thriving tourist destination but still a fully functioning recording studio. Musicians come from all over the world to genuflect at the altar of the birthplace of rock & roll.
During my mother’s pregnancy, my dad made half-hearted attempts to work as a salesman for the Home Equipment Company on Summer Avenue in Memphis. He was also studying to be a disc jockey. My parents lived in a tiny, bare apartment within walking distance of Dad’s workplace. His lackluster performance as a salesman may have had something to do with his reluctance to cajole or manipulate a sale. He once even talked a potential customer named Pat Isom out of buying a refrigerator in the store because it was “too expensive” and didn’t carry a good warranty. Pat was so impressed with Dad’s honesty that she engaged him in conversation and found out that he and his pregnant wife, Vivian, needed a new apartment that didn’t have stairs. Dad was afraid my mom might fall in her delicate condition, so Pat offered my parents half of her duplex at 2553 Tutwiler Street in mid-Memphis. It was also a short walk from the Home Equipment Company and about five miles from Sun Records, though at that time Dad didn’t know how large Sun would figure into the next few years of his life.
Read more at OxfordAmerican.org.