The Arkansas boy known as JR would go on to become one of the most recognizable country music stars around the world. And Canada played a pro(minent role in the life and career of Johnny Cash. In addition to recording a few songs written by Canadians and performing countless concerts in The Great White North, here are a few more Canadian connections you may…or may not…have known….

Most everyone knows he proposed to June Carter during a concert in London, Ontario in 1968. While there doesn’t appear to be any photos of that moment, they did play that same venue (The London Ice House, a hockey arena and not a theatre as depicted in the movie “Walk the Line”) almost exactly two years earlier.

(Johnny and June performing at the London Ice House, Mar. 14, 1966)

After booking Johnny for a few Ontario shows in the late 1950’s, Saul Holiff, from London, would become Cash’s manager through most of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Around March of 1963, shortly before he recorded “Ring of Fire,” Johnny, June and Johnny’s guitar player, Luther Perkins, spent some time in Saul’s London home.

(left to right:  Luther Perkins, June, Johnny and Saul Holiff in Saul’s London, Ont. home, early 1963)

In the mid-1980’s when ATM’s began popping up in bank lobbies, Canada Trust enlisted The Man in Black to be a spokesperson for their own line of cash dispensers known as JohnnyCash Money Machines. He recorded the TV commercials at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton.

His “One Piece at a Time” novelty song about a car put together with parts stolen from an auto assembly factory was made into a promotional film, a forerunner of music videos. And a car was made to be shown in the film. Years later, the specialty vehicle was displayed at the House of Cash, the Johnny Cash museum. Once, before it was to be displayed at a major car show, the vehicle was picked up in Tennessee and transported for servicing to a place just outside Guelph, Ontario.

(the front of the “One Piece at a Time” car, during service work near Guelph, Ont.)

(the back of the “One Piece at a Time” car during service work)

A friend of mine, retired London booking agent Marilyn Caswell, once gave me a copy of a rare photo she kept in one of her photo albums. The picture, perhaps a promotional shot, shows a young Johnny Cash, probably backstage in an arena before a concert, holding a Molson Canadian beer bottle. It would later be published in Julie Chadwick’s biography of Saul Holiff, “The Man Who Carried Cash.”

Another friend of mine, a Waterloo Regional Police officer, was such good friends with John that he and his wife would often host John and June for dinner at their home. The officer, a sergeant before he became deputy chief, once gave John a tour of police headquarters and with Cash wearing his police jacket, took a photo he later shared with me of John on a Waterloo Regional Police motorcycle. The only time the picture was ever published was on the cover of the police in-house magazine.

Johnny Cash could’ve been an honourary Canadian!

Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71. Today would have been his 88th birthday.