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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Johnny Cash

Aired November 26, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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JOHNNY CASH, SINGER: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

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CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

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CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

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CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

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LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, the man in black is back. An exclusive hour with Johnny Cash next on LARRY KING LIVE.

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KING: The great pleasure to welcome a return visit to LARRY KING LIVE the wonderful Johnny Cash. His new album, "The Man Comes Around" will be out -- just came out November 4, as we play this on our Thanksgiving holiday. And this past year we've seen the release of "The Essential Johnny Cash," a two CD chronicle of his recording years with Sun, Columbia and Mercury and the past year has also seen the release of an expanded addition of five vintage Johnny Cash LPs put out on CD. You're like a -- you're a legend.

CASH: Well, there's a great compilation of my work that they've put together, all the companies that I worked for, you know? And everybody is trying to outdo the other one.

KING: You sang with Sun? CASH: Yes, I was on Sun Records.

KING: When Presley was there?

CASH: Yes, when Presley was there.

KING: You both sang for Sun Records?

CASH: Yes, right.

KING: Why didn't that company last forever?

CASH: Well, I don't know. It was a money thing, I guess. RCA- Victor went to Sam Phillips to buy Elvis and they bought him. And he was the nucleus of the whole thing -- the rockabilly thing was revolving around.

KING: Did you realize his greatness then?

CASH: I think so. I think everybody that saw him perform did, yes.

KING: Yes.

All right, Johnny, first and foremost, how are you doing? How's your health?

CASH: Good. Good.

KING: Because, you know, you look like you've had some stuff times. Explain.

CASH: I have had some tough times. I have had pneumonia three times in the last three years -- four times in the last three years. And it debilitates you. It takes the strength away. Took the life out of my legs and I can walk, but not very well.

KING: Now, is this pneumonia related to that autonamic neuropathy (ph), which you have.

CASH: Autonomic neuropathy.

KING: Which is what?

CASH: Well it's kind of -- the way I understand it, it's a deadening of the nerve cells of the nerve endings in the lower extremities and sometimes the hands and other extremities.

And for me that's really about the only thing it's really affected a lot. I'm not sure that it's affected my lung power but I don't have the lung power I did. But of course, pneumonia will take that away too.

KING: Now is the pneumonia an offshoot of that. Do you get pneumonia because you have that disease? How did you first discover this? CASH: Well, it was 1993 and I was hospitalized with a -- I went into a coma and I was there for 12 days. They all thought I was dying and they couldn't diagnose what was wrong with me. They finally came up with a diagnosis of Shydreger (ph) Syndrome. It was few months later they realized I didn't have that so it was Parkinson's. And then it was not that.

Then finally it was autonomic neuropathy.

KING: They finally got it right.

CASH: Finally got it right. And I'm pretty well resolved to the fact that that's what it is. And it's a slow process of the nerve endings.

KING: No cure?

CASH: No, I don't think so. But that's all right. There's no cure for life either.

KING: Can you sing?

CASH: Well, as well as I ever could I guess.

KING: You can? I mean, do you go out and sing?

CASH: Yes. Well, I don't go out and sing. I don't do concerts any more because the physical thing of going out there and doing concerts and the planes and the cars and the hotels and all that. And the backstage is where it's so dark I have a hard time.

My vision is -- my vision is over. I'd probably say 60 percent gone because of the neuropathy. And the diabetes.

KING: But you can still record.

CASH: Yes. I can still record, yes. I have been in the studio a lot. I have focused my energies from the road to the studio and it really feels good. I'm really enjoying it.

KING: Are you bitter?

CASH: Bitter? No.

KING: Angry? You're a young guy. You're only 70.

CASH: No, I'm not bitter. Why should by bitter? I'm thrilled to death with life. Life is -- the way God has given it to me was just a platter -- a golden platter of life laid out there for me. It's been beautiful.

I have been with you many times, Larry, and it's all been uphill every time. You remember?

KING: Yes.

CASH: Yes, things have been good. And things will get better all time.

KING: So you have no regrets?

CASH: No regrets.

KING: And no anger at the, Why did God do this to me?

CASH: Oh, no. No. I'm the last one that would be angry at God. I'd really took if I shook my fist at him.

KING: What was -- do you remember anything about being in a coma?

CASH: I remember voices in the room. I remember things they were saying. And I couldn't respond to -- I was in a coma several times with -- over the periods of time. It was actually three times with pneumonia. I was in a coma several times -- with pneumonia three times. And several times I wanted to wake up and tell them, I heard what you said, you know?. I'm not dying.

KING: What's that feeling like?

I'm not dying. I could hear the people in the room rustling around and talking. And after a while, you know, the conversation inevitably has to come around to Well, if he dies, this or that, you know?

KING: Oh, and you're lying there hearing that?

CASH: And I'm lying there hearing that, you know? And I hear a lot of that. I hear a lot of that...

KING: And you can't move?

CASH: ...over the days and nights. And I can't respond. No, I can't move, no.

KING: How much of this do you think, Johnny, the disease, pneumonia, trouble you've had in the '90s, can go back to your drug addiction, which was in the '60s, right?

CASH:" I'm not going to blame it on that at all.

KING: No?

CASH: Not at all. The drug addiction, I won't blame this on drug addiction at all.

And people say, Well, he wore that body out. Well, maybe I did. But it was to a good purpose. They should be thankful that I wore it out to the purpose I wore it out and that was writing and recording and touring and doing concerts. Everywhere I could possibly do them that I thought I might enjoy them. I thought people might enjoy me.

KING: You never stopped, did you?

CASH: I never stopped until 1993. No. Never.

KING: In the '60s your dependency was on what?

CASH: In the '60s, amphetamines and barbiturates.

KING: Amphetamines to stay up.

CASH: Uh-huh.

KING: Barbiturates to bring you down after you were up.

CASH: Right.

KING: Now what was it like performing when you were on drugs?

CASH: Well, for awhile it was OK. For awhile it was OK. For awhile, Larry, when I took my first ones I said, this is what God meant for me to have in this world. This was invented for me, you know? I honestly thought it was a blessing -- a gift from God, these pills were.

And -- but then I thought -- then I finally found out I was deceiving myself. That this was one of those things that have a false face -- that it's the devil in disguise that has come to me.

KING: Make a nice song.

CASH: Probably been written but I'd write it.

KING: Was it hard to get rid of it?

CASH: To get rid of the pills? Yes. . It took -- the first time I broke the addiction it took 32 days. And I was in a house that was unfinished. I had just bought it. This was just before June and I were married.

And I was living in this house and she moved out there with her mother and her father and several other people rallied around me and the commissioner of mental health for the state of Tennessee, he had befriended me. And he said, I will help you save your life if you want to save it. And I said, I want to save it.

So he came to me every day at 5:00 when he got off work. He came every day for a counseling session. For 32 days.

Only about the funny thing happened on about the seventh or eighth day. I had these pills that I had rat holed, you know. I had hidden back that I just knew nobody would know where they were.

KING: Safety measure.

CASH: Yes, my safety measure, yeah.

And one day about the fifth or sixth day he was out there, he said, OK, how you doing? I said, just great. He said, no, you're not. You're lying. I said, OK. He says where are they? You want to flush them or do you want me to just leave and you keep taking them? I said, I'll flush them. So I did. I flushed them.

KING: And stayed off it?

CASH: Stayed off of it, yes. For 32 days.

KING: More on the saga of Johnny Cash as we salute a true American legend tonight on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. It's always good seeing him as he keeps on keepin' on.

We'll be right back.

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KING: We're back with the incredible Johnny Cash, who keeps on, as we said, keepin' on. And the lighter notes to the album "The Essential Johnny Cash," Bono of U2 calls Cash the most male voice in Christendom. Every man knows he is a sissy compared to Johnny Cash. Well said.

How does that make you feel?

CASH: That embarrasses me. Sitting in front of you.

KING: Where did you start?

CASH: Where did I start? Memphis. Memphis, 1955.

KING: What was your first hit?

CASH: " Cry Cry Cry."

KING: Country hit, right?

CASH: Well, "Folsom Prison Blues" was my next record. It was the first big country hit.

KING: How did you come to entertain in prison? How did that start for you?

CASH: Well, the convicts at Huntsville, Texas State Prison, had heard "Folsom Prison Blues."

KING: Which was recorded in a studio?

CASH: Right, a studio recording. And this was 1956 I got the invitation to do a concert at Huntsville, Texas. So the Tennessee Two and i, Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins and I went down to Huntsville, Texas and set up in the middle of the rodeo arena. They this big rodeo every year.

KING: Famous rodeo. Prison rodeo.

CASH: Well, just before the rodeo they had me out as a special attraction. And I was out there supposedly to sing "Folsom Prison Blues."

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CASH: Well, we did "Folsom Prison Blues" and it started raining, and a thunderstorm hit. We were right in the middle of the arena and the rain is pouring down on our one little amplifier. In the middle of the song it burns out. And I got no amplification, none whatsoever. And there's thunder and lightning all around me. The men have been told not to leave their seats but they all do. They all do. They walk down in the rain to get close enough to hear me sing without the amplifier. And I sang that song, and they demanded that I sing it again and again.

KING: In the rain?

CASH: In the rain. We all got soaking wet, but we had a great time. But after that, Larry, I got a request from San Quentin, from the word got around the prison grapevine that I was one of them I guess. But the word got around in San Quentin, and they have that New Year's Day show every year. I was invited to perform at that. So I started -- I made that an annual event for about five years.

KING: Were you one of them?

CASH: Not really.

KING: Did you feel an affinity?

CASH: Well, only in my mind and in the songs I was singing.

KING: Obviously you had -- you were writing some of them, right? You obviously had some contact with these men? What do you think it was?

CASH: Well, as I got into the '60s, yes, I began to have a lot of contact with men from the steamy side of life, really from the steamy side of life. When I got into drug addiction.

KING: So you could associate with them? There were guys in there for drugs.

CASH: Yes, when you got thrown into jail a few times, and your head knocked around a few times and your hands slapped with a black jack for having on the bars (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you become -- get to thinking like them, I guess.

KING: Did it harden you?

CASH: No, it didn't harden me. Not at all. I think it softened me. I think it really softened me. I really do. I remember the last time I was in jail before that time I told you about, you know when the commissioner of mental health was out there every day. I came home from -- and seeking help. But I came home from being in jail down in Georgia, in a little county jail. And the jailer had picked me up and put me in his jail. I didn't know about it. I didn't know a thing until I woke up the next morning and here I am in jail.

I started banging on the bars, kicking the cell door, this and that, just raising cane. He came down, got me up, brought me up to the front and he threw my money and my car keys and my pills up on the counter. And he said, here, you take it all. You take the pills, go ahead and kill yourself if you want to. He said, it's your god given right to do that if you'd like to do it. He said, I did the best I could do. I brought you in to save your life, but now you go ahead and kill yourself or you go take care of yourself.

I just put the things in my pocket and left. And I decided -- oh, he said, also, he said, my wife is a big fan of yours and he said, when I went home last night and told her I had Johnny Cash in my jail, she cried all night. And he said, I don't want to see you any more. So get out of here.

KING: What did that do to you?

CASH: Well, that kind of -- you know, brought me down to about that tall.

KING: With all the things you had, it had to be rough, what am I doing here?

CASH: Yes, right, you stupid.

KING: Johnny Cash is our guest. The man who doesn't go away. New albums, new s and one of the great, great figures in American music history. We'll be right back.

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KING: Johnny Cash was presented by President George W. Bush in a ceremony at Constitutional Hall in April with the National Medal of the Arts. He's won every major award there is to win in music. He is an American institution. When did you know you wanted to sing?

CASH: I knew I wanted to sing when I was a very small boy. When I was probably 4-years-old. My mother played a guitar and I would sit with her and she would sing and I learned to sing along with her.

KING: How would you describe your voice? Since there's no voice like it.

CASH: I don't know, Larry.

KING: I mean, it's not -- you don't hear yourself any where, right? I mean, there's no one -- are you a bass?

CASH: I don't hear -- no, I'm not a bass. I don't hear me like anybody else does. I'm sorry. I just don't. I don't hear -- I don't hear a good strong voice. I guess I remember too much of the pneumonia. I don't know. I just -- but my voice, I have to really work on my voice, on the vocals on my records to get it right. I just -- I run out of air. I run out of breath. And I run off pitch. I...

KING: So you have to go over it a lot?

CASH: Yes. Quite a bit. Quite a bit. Maybe no more than the average person, but to me a lot, you know, who never had to do it a lot.

KING: Do you still enjoy singing?

CASH: I love it. I love it.

KING: What is it?

CASH: I love to go to the studio and stay there 10 or 12 hours a day. I love it. What is it? I don't know. It's life.

KING: I mean, it must be -- with pneumonia is painful. It can hurt, right?

CASH: Yes, but what it did -- but I don't have pneumonia now. So it doesn't hurt now to work that long.

KING: Do you miss audiences?

CASH: I miss the audiences. I miss the audiences. But I see enough of people. You know where I see a lot of people? June and I go shopping a lot. And... KING: Malls?

CASH: In malls. In malls. We love to go to malls. And some of the stores, the big ones, have these little electric cars, little electric wheelchairs.

KING: You ride them?

CASH: I'm dangerous on one of those things. Yeah. We go to these stores I'll jump in one and follow June all day long in it. I love to shop.

KING: Where's home? Nashville?

CASH: Near Nashville. Hendersonville.

KING: Don't people stop you all the time?

CASH: Yes. That's all right.

KING: You don't mind it?

CASH: No, I don't mind.

KING: Why the black? Why do you always and only wear black?

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CASH: You know, I wrote a song about why I wear black but maybe that's not quite it. I wear black because I'm comfortable in it. But then in the summertime when it's hot I'm comfortable in light blue.

KING: I don't think I have ever seen you in light blue. Do you ever record -- you ever do a concert in light blue?

CASH: No. Never done a concert in anything but black.

KING: Are you a clothes freak?

CASH: You walk into my clothes closet. It's dark in there. It's dark.

KING: How many records have you sold?

CASH: I don't know.

KING: Don't know. Biggest hit?

CASH: "I Walk The Line." "I Walk The Line." It was a hit three times.

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KING: Tell me about the history of that song.

CASH: "I Walk The Line." I went to see -- let me see. Where did the idea come from? Oh. I had a little recorder. I had a Wilcox Gay Recorder -- a tape recorder in the Air Force in 1952. And I was always -- only guitar I was going do-do-do-do-do -- well it got turned around. The tape got in there backwards. And hen I played it, it went sh-sh-sh-sh and it had a kind of a drone sound like I finally had on the record.

But I couldn't figure out where that sound came from when I played it. When I took that sound -- when I got home -- when I was home from the Air Force, I was on the road and that sound was haunting me again. And then -- but then the line "because you're mine, I walk the line." It kept coming to me, you know? But I was -- I was...

KING: It was coming to you?

CASH: ...young and not been married too long. yes, it kept coming to me. Because you're mine, I walk the line. And then the words just naturally flowed. It was an easy song to write.

KING: How about "A Boy Named Sue?"

CASH: That was Shel Silverstein song.

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KING: That song cracked up everybody whenever you sing it, right?

CASH: Right. Yes.

KING: Did you like it right away?

CASH: Right away. Immediately.

KING: Anyone else ever record it?

CASH: Nobody that I know of. Nobody that I know of. There's a thing about that song. I recorded that live at San Quentin in 1969.

KING: I remember the album.

CASH: The night before I left home in Hendersonville to go to California to do that concert, to make that record, we had a party at our house -- June threw a party for the cast of our TV show. And at the party was singing these songs, all the songs for the first time was Bob Dylan sing "Lay Lady Late At Night." Kris Kristofferson sang "Me and Bobby McGee." Shel Silverstein sang "A Boy Named Sue." Graham Nash sang "Marrakkesh Express."

KING: All of this...

CASH: Joni Mitchell sang "Both Sides Now." All these sons were sung the first time at that party at my house that night.

We were leaving the next day to go to California and June said, Take the words to "A Boy name Sue" to California. You'll want to record that at San Quentin. I said, I don't have time to learn that song before the show. And she said, Well, take them anyway.

So I did. I took the words to "A Boy Named Sue." I'd only read it the first time -- sung it the first time the night before and I read it off, you know, as I sing it. I still didn't know the words to it. So reluctantly I put them in my briefcase and took them to California. And I got out there to do that show. As a last resort, I pulled those lyrics out and laid them on the music stand, and when it came time that I thought I was brave enough, I did that song.

KING: And that crowd went berserk.

CASH: Yes, they went nuts.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Johnny Cash. Don't go away.

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KING: We're back with Johnny Cash. You're very involved in patriotism, sing a lot of patriotic songs, get involved in your country a lot. Where were you on 9/11?

CASH: I was at our farm in Middle Tennessee, little 107-acre farm, watching television.

KING: You were up?

CASH: I was up watching television.

KING: Remember your first thoughts? CASH: A chill went over me. I just thought, You know, it's an invasion. I felt like it was an invasion of war, and it scared me. It really scared me. I just -- I thought what has it come to, you know, that they can get away with this?

KING: Did people ask you to appear in any -- since you're not making public appearances, just studio work, were you asked to appear in any of the concerts and specials that were put on with regard to it?

CASH: Well, I don't know. I think I had a couple requests, but nothing I seriously considered at all.

KING: Because you couldn't do it?

CASH: Right.

KING: Willie Nelson did some.

CASH: I think so. I think Willie did some, yes. Lot of the guys did.

KING: Now your singing contemporaries pass away -- I just want to get this right. Waylon Jennings died in February battling diabetes, had part of a foot amputated. You shared an apartment in the '60s. What was it like to lose him?

CASH: Losing Waylon was a tough one. We were very close. We were very good friends.

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KING: Were you poor together?

CASH: Well, not really, no. I wasn't poor. When we shared the apartment together, I wasn't poor. I could have afforded a better apartment. I could have afforded my own apartment without having to room with Waylon, but I thought it would be fun, which it was. As it turned out, we kind of drifted away from each other after a few short weeks in that apartment.

It really didn't work out, the two of us. What we did, we had this crash pad that we shared, you know? A crash pad where we'd go crash from the drugs, and we shared this thing. And also, we'd use this apartment as a place to try to get June to come cook us some breakfast. She would come cook us a country ham or biscuits and gravy breakfast -- or her mother would. Mother Maybell (ph) Carter, she'd come over and cook us a breakfast to kind of try to keep us alive, you know, keep our bones together for a while.

KING: Why are country stars the most accessible? Why are they the ones that -- I remember Fanfare -- they still have that down in Nashville? I broadcast from there once. It's easy to meet a country star.

CASH: I think so.

KING: Reason?

CASH: Well, we walk out in our yards. We get in our cars. We go to stores. I guess I meet a lot of people when I'm shopping -- quote -- "shopping."

KING: But there's no air -- you don't have entourages? You don't have 40 -- at the height of fame, you didn't have 13 people guiding you through a room.

CASH: No, I didn't. No.

KING: Keeping you away from the public.

CASH: No. I never had to have that. No. I never have had the people, Back up, Mr. Cash is coming through. Back up.

I never have had to have that.

KING: How about country music itself? It's the most popular form of radio as a format.

CASH: Seems to be. Seems to be the most popular.

KING: Why do we like it?

CASH: Well, I don't know why we like some of it. Some of it I don't think we do like.

KING: Good answer, Johnny. Generally, it's part of the nomenclature...

CASH: You're trying to get me in trouble now.

KING: No, it's part of the nomenclature in America.

CASH: Yes, yes it is. I think there are more country stations than there are any other music format stations.

KING: Lot of country crossover hits.

CASH: I think it speaks to our basic fundamental feelings, you know. Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does.

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KING: And singing it is fun. CASH: It is.

KING: Sad, too. It tells a story.

CASH: Fun like "A Boy Named Sue," and sad like "Give My Love to Rose" which was on that album.

KING: Do you write most of the stuff you do?

CASH: No. On that album, I wrote five of the 15 of those songs.

KING: Is music always going through your head?

CASH: Always. Always. There's always rhythm going in my mind.

KING: So, you're literally, in a sense, writing songs all the time?

CASH: I'm either singing them -- June will tell you, I'm either singing them, or I have got the beat going from one, or I'm writing one.

KING: Did you ever have a song that you thought was going to be phenomenal, and didn't do it?

CASH: Exactly.

KING: Which one? Instead I'm going to ask you the reverse, too.

CASH: I was going to be phenomenal.

KING: Let me take a break and you think about it. Johnny Cash is our guest. Don't go away.

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KING: My daughter's here with me tonight and she had to remind me, Kia, that we should show the album. It's called "Cash". There's that face.

Can you tell the name? You got to buy this with cash. What -- is there a song you thought, this can't miss?

CASH: Yes. It's called "Red Velvet." I think it was a hit for Ann Tyson (ph).

KING: You wrote it?

CASH: No, I didn't write it. But when I recorded it, I thought, this is it. This is the one I have been looking for. Nobody wanted it. Nobody requested it. Everybody hated it.

KING: Hated it? Because I remember "Blue Velvet," Tony Bennett had a big hit, "Blue Velvet." Do you remember any of "Red Velvet."

CASH: Four months guy in April she came down, and the dusty autumn winds began to blow. Should have known I couldn't hold her livin' out so far from town, and the nights to come are cold and slow to go. If I had known before we kissed, you can't keep Red Velvet on a poor dirt farm like this now she's up -- any time you can stop me.

KING: You thought that couldn't miss. Okay. Now, what surprised you? What song did you record that did well that you didn't think much of?

CASH: "I Walk The Line."

KING: You didn't think much of it?

CASH: I didn't think.

KING: It was in your head too long.

CASH: It was in my head too long, I just didn't think it was that good of a song. I just didn't think anyone would like it. I didn't like the arraignment. I didn't like the sound I had on the record. First time I heard it on the radio I was on tour in Florida. I called Stan Phillips (ph) and Sun Record and I said, please don't make any more of those records. Please don't send out any more to the radio stations.

KING: No kidding?

CASH: I did. I begged him not to. I said, don't send out "I Walk The Line" to the radio stations. I don't want to hear it any more. He said, well you'll have to keep your radio off because it's playing everywhere. And he said, let's give it a chance. Let's give it a chance and see what happens. Well, what happens is another week or two it was zoom, number one.

KING: Country stars do a lot of singing with each other.

CASH: We do.

KING: Pop stars rarely do that, though lately that's changed. Why? I mean, all country stars have recorded with other country stars.

CASH: That's that other thing about country music. It's a brotherhood or sister sisterhood, you know. Brotherhood or sisterhood, country music is. And we share the music, and we share the songs and we share the feelings and emotions. We do it -- we cry on each other's face if we want to.

KING: You also root for each other?

CASH: Yes, we do.

KING: Unlike other businesses in show business, you want to see that other record do well?

CASH: Yes, I do. Yes, we do. We want to see our friend's records do well.

KING: And you're happy when they get a lot of success?

CASH: Yes.

KING: So there's no jealousy in the industry?

CASH: I wouldn't say there's no jealousy. I couldn't say that, but...

KING: The people who made it are pretty secure, right, in country music?

CASH: I think so. People who have made it feel very secure.

KING: Do you have a favorite?

CASH: I do, I have a favorite. My favorite female artist is Emmylou Harris. My favorite male artist would be Dwight Yaokam.

KING: Good actor, too.

CASH: Isn't he great?

KING: And a scary guy. He can sing though.

CASH: He's terrific. Yes.

KING: And he's real cowboy.

CASH: I know he is. He is.

KING: Are you friends?

CASH: Yes, we're friends.

KING: John, do you ever hope that this disease, whatever, may go away? Someone may cure it? You'll be out on stage again.

CASH: Wouldn't that be nice? Yes, that would be nice if we could not only cure it, but reverse it. Not only that but the glaucoma.

KING: What do you see when you see now? You said you only have 40 percent vision.

CASH: What I see is, I see you, but it's very foggy between me and you. Very foggy.

KING: That thing on the side of your face, is that a scar?

CASH: Yes.

KING: That's from long ago?

CASH: Yes that is from the Air Force.

KING: What happened?

CASH: That's a bullet hole.

KING: No.

CASH: Oh no.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We'll -- bullet hole. Japanese guy he was standing with. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Johnny Cash right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Johnny Cash. A couple of other things. Where did that scar come from?

CASH: I had a cyst removed when I was in the Air Force.

KING: Simple as that? No big story? Nobody shot you?

CASH: That is all.

KING: Were you a hero in the Air Force?

CASH: No. I was in Air Force Security Service. I was a high speed radio intercept operator. I intercepted Russian Morse code.

KING: Korean War?

CASH: Yes.

KING: Pretty good. Did you sing in the service?

CASH: Yes.

KING: You had a TV show that was a hit for a couple years, right?

CASH: No, not when I was in the service.

KING: I mean, when you got out of the service? I jumped ahead.

CASH: Yes, I did. I had a TV show that did all right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why did you give that up?

CASH: The ABC network show? Oh, I didn't give it up. They dropped me.

KING: It was good, and -- they do that in television.

CASH: They do that in television, yes.

KING: All right, John. Where do we go from here? Do you look at -- do you say to yourself, I'm looking at a future? I'm plagued with this disease, I'm going to just keep recording? I am going to hang on, I'm going to -- how do you look at tomorrow?

CASH: Well, Larry, you can ask the people around me. I don't give up. I don't give up. I don't give -- and it's not out of frustration and desperation that I say I don't give up. I don't give up because I don't give up. I don't believe in it.

It's like my father said, when you go to the cotton fields, if you're supposed to give the men 10 hours for $5 a day, give him 10 hours and a half. I still try to do that, you know? When I -- if my session is supposed to be a three-hour session, I'll try to do four or five hours. I work because I love my work. So long as I can work, I'm going work.

KING: Tell me about "The Man Comes Around."

CASH: "The Man Comes Around" is a song that I wrote, it's my song of the apocalypse, and I got the idea from a dream that I had -- I dreamed I saw Queen Elizabeth. I dreamed I went in to Buckingham Palace, and there she sat on the floor.

And she looked up at me and said, Johnny Cash, you're like a thorn tree in a whirlwind. And I woke up, of course, and I thought, what could a dream like this mean? Thorn tree in a whirlwind? Well, I forgot about it for two or three years, but it kept haunting me, this dream. I kept thinking about it, how vivid it was, and then I thought, Maybe it's biblical. So I found it. Something about whirlwinds and thorn trees in the Bible. So from that, my song started and...

KING: And they've titled the album?

CASH: "The Man Comes Around." The song turned out to be "The Man Comes Around." Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How many songs have you recorded?

CASH: I don't know, Larry.

KING: Do you have them all at home?

CASH: Yes, I probably do. I probably have them all.

KING: One other song to ask you about, "The Burning Ring of Fire."

CASH: "Ring of Fire."

KING: Where did that come from?

CASH: Written by June Carter.

KING: Sitting right over there.

CASH: June Carter and Merle Kilgore (ph). They wrote that song for me, and...

KING: You had to like that right away.

CASH: When I heard that, I said, That's me in that song.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You didn't stop that record?

CASH: No, I didn't. No, I had no intention of stopping that one.

KING: Always a great pleasure having you, Johnny.

CASH: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Be well.

CASH: Thank you.

KING: Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around" is now out. The release of "The Essential Johnny Cash," a two CD chronicle of recording years with Sun, Columbia, and Mercury is out. We've also seen the re-release of expanded editions of five vintage Johnny Cash LPs. Thank you, Johnny, thank you for a wonderful evening. Thank you for joining us.

Stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown. I'm Larry King with Johnny Cash in Washington. Good night.

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