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     Jim fondly recalls his association with the late Country Music Hall of Fame great Johnny Cash, who was a classmate and friend in the School of Broadcasting at Keegan Technical Institute in Memphis.. Jim enrolled in January 1955 and in March of that year met John R. Cash, who had enrolled in the night school in January, then transferred to the day school in March 1955.

  When this quiet but friendly guy named John Cash became a member of our class of 12 or 13 students, I introduced myself and we became friends immediately, discussing matters in class each day and talking about our common home county, Mississippi County Arkansas.  "John and I took a mid-morning break each day at Cooper's Restaurant, which was across Madison Avenue from the school," and drank a cup of coffee  while discussing our future in the radio business.

  One day in April 1955, Ralph Mathis of Houston, Mississippi, who with brother Robin, a fellow student, became owner of WCPC Radio, which went on the air in the fall of 1955 as a 1,000 watt station but later was developed into a 50,000 watt powerhouse, told me that Cash was going to bring his guitar to school the next day and record a couple of songs on tape to send to Paula Levine, a fellow student who had recently graduated and took a job at a station in Independence, Missouri. As a matter of fact, all of us said "hello" to Paula on that tape.  At the time, I didn't know that John sang and played guitar. 

  That next day, when it was time to record the tape for Paula, John pulled up a folding chair, perched his right foot on the seat of the chair, put the guitar strap around his neck and sang two songs while one of us held a microphone up to him.  I stood no more than three or four feet from Cash as he sang "Cry, Cry, Cry" and "Hey Porter," which turned out to be the two sides of his very first Sun record in June 1955.
  "My gosh," what a great sound!" Hearing John Cash sing made an impression on me that will not be forgotten as long as I live. He was different from any country singer I had ever heard ... different and very, very good.  He had a unique sound that was unlike anything that of any previous country music singer. That deep, resonant voice made goose bumps; I remember those few minutes as if they happened yesterday. I thought to myself, "this guy is going places."  This guy was not trying to emulate any currently popular singers - he was . . . himself . . . different and, as I said, very, very good!

  Sometime during the fall of 1955, Bobby Ritter, an announcer at WMPA who was helping Charlie Boren, manager of WAMY in Amory promote an upcoming concert, told me about the event, saying that one of the performers was "Johnny" Cash. I told Bobby that I had a friend named John Cash in the class ( there were only twelve or thirteen of us) at school in Memphis who sang, and asked if he knew if they were one and the same.  A day or so later, Ritter came in with the above picture, the very firist promotional image of the upcoming Country Music Hall of Famer.  So, I made plans to go to Amory and see him.

  Mac Allen Thomas, who later became a state representative,  and I drove to Amory that Friday evening in December 1955, arriving early so I could visit with Cash.  As we entered the old Armory in Amory, I saw John standing up in the bleachers on the right.  He yelled "Hi, Jim." I responded, and we made our way over to him. We visited a few minutes, then John took us up to the stage and down a staircase to the basement underneath, where a nervous young man named Elvis was standing (but not still).   We were introduced to Presley, who took a liking to the sport coat I was wearing - charcoal with a hot pink grid - Elvis's two favorite colors.  He wanted to buy the coat from me, but I wouldn't sell - my parents in Blytheville had given it to me as a Christmas gift the previous December.

  Later that evening, backstage, John introduced me to his wife, Vivian Liberto Cash  (the mother of Roseanne Cash) and gave me a copy of his new Sun record, "Folsom Prison Blues."  Please keep in mind that John Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins (who wowed the crowd with 'Blue Suede Shoes' that night) were known regionally, but had yet to become nationally famous.  Since that night I have often asked myself why I didn't ask John to autograph that copy of 'Folsom Prison Blues,' and I have often wondered what happened to the tape we recorded for Paula Levine.

  John Cash had a huge influence on me from the moment I heard him sing the morning we made that tape.  Be natural, be yourself, dont' try to emulate someone - if you're good enough, and you have something unique to offer, you'll make it on your own.  And, of course he did, in a big way.

  That was the one and only time I saw John after leaving school. I tried to make contact with him a number of years later for a class reunion, but he was in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, filiming a movie for ABC.

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