The son of Southern Baptist sharecroppers, Cash began playing guitar and writing songs at age 12. He performed frequently on radio station KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas. Cash moved to Detroit in his late teens and worked there until he joined the Air Force as a radio operator in Germany. He left the Air Force and married Vivian Liberto in 1954; the couple settled in Memphis, where Cash sold appliances and attended radio announcers' school. With the Tennessee Two -- guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant -- he began recording for Sam Phillips' Sun Records in 1955. The trio recorded "Cry, Cry, Cry" #14 in 1955, and followed it with "Folsom Prison Blues" #5 in 1956. Later in 1956 came Cash's most enduring hit, the million-seller: "I Walk the Line" #17 in 1956.
Cash moved near Ventura, California in 1958, and signed with Columbia. He released a number of successful country and pop hits, among them "Ring of Fire" #1 in 1963, written by June Carter of the Carter Family and Merle Kilgare. By then, he had left his family and moved to New York's Greenwich Village. After a serious auto accident and a near fatal overdose, his wife divorced him. By then Cash had moved to Nashville, where he became friends with Waylon Jennings. Not long after his arrival in Nashville, Cash began a liaison with June Carter, who helped him get rid of his drug habit by 1967 and reconverted him to fundamentalist Christianity. By the time Cash and Carter married in early 1968, they had begun working together regularly. They had hit duets with "Jackson" #2 in 1967, "Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man" #6 in 1967, and versions of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" #4 in 1964 and Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" #2 in 1970. Cash's 1968 live album, "At Folsom Prison" #13, became a million-seller in 1968. Cash had a 1969 hit with Shel Silverstein's "A Boy Named Sue" #2, a track from Johnny Cash at San Quentin, his bestselling album. The live LB was #1 for four weeks.
In 1970 Cash performed at the Nixon White House. He and June Carter traveled to Israel in 1971 to make a documentary, "Gospel Road." Cash continued to tour and make hits including "A Thing Called Love" #2 in 1972 and "One Piece at a Time" #1 in 1976. He also became active in benefit work, particularly on behalf of prisoners, Native American rights, and evangelist Billy Graham's organization.
Three years later Cash hooked up with three other campadres -- Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson -- to form the Highwaymen, releasing Highwayman in 1985. The Highwaymen performed together sporadically throughout the late Eighties
and Nineties, recording Highwayman 2 in 1990. They released The Road Goes On Forever produced by Don Was, in 1995. Throughout these years, Cash turned to acting, in a slew of Western-themed movies and TV shows. He also suffered from health problems, and underwent heart surgery and drug treatment for an addiction to painkillers. Already a member of the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame Cash has more than 400 songs to his credit and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Cash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Also later that year came the release of the critically acclaimed boxed set, "The Essential Johnny Cash." Johnny passed away in 2003 due to health complications only a few months after his beloved soul mate June died.