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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Family Remembers Johnny Cash

Aired May 31, 2004 - 21:00   ET

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


(MUSIC)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive: Johnny Cash. Intimate memories of an American legend. With his daughters from his first marriage, Cindy Cash and Kathy Cash; Johnny's brother, Tommy Cash, a country entertainer himself, and Johnny's sister, Joanne Cash. The late, great Man in Black as his family knew him. Exclusive, and next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. There is a lot of ways you can look at Memorial Day, and this is Memorial Day 2004. And we thought it's kind of special to pay tribute to a great American, happened to serve in the armed forces, and more than that, become an American legend and paved the way for a whole bunch of people who followed him.

So tonight, we pay tribute to the immortal Johnny Cash. The 11- time Grammy winner Johnny Cash died September 12 of last year from complications of diabetes. Later, by the way, when Bill Miller joins us, we're going to talk about an extraordinary new book, with the life and times of Johnny Cash. Maybe the best biographical picture book ever.

But let's talk first with the family. Cindy, how have you been coping with dad's death?

CINDY CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S DAUGHTER: It's -- it's been very hard. It's a continuous process.

KING: Think about him a lot?

C. CASH: All the time.

KING: Where were you when he passed?

C. CASH: I had been living with him for about two and a half months. And I had moved in with him after June's death, because he just wasn't seeing good anymore, and I just -- I felt kind of -- I just felt really bad that he was alone. And I know he was not comfortable with it.

So I moved in with him, and about, I think, one day before he passed, my husband -- I had not left the house in two and a half months, and my husband was trying to convince me to get away for the weekend. And he took me -- he wanted to take me to see my daughter out in California. And I didn't want to leave my dad. And my dad insisted. And the next day, I got a call from my brother.

KING: You were in California already?

C. CASH: I was in California. And I felt so guilty for leaving, but at the same time, I think that's how it was supposed to be. I think he waited for me to leave.

KING: Kathy, how are you dealing with it?

KATHY CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S DAUGHTER: It's a day-to-day process. I -- I think the last three weeks have been harder. Well, I can't say that. Every day has been harder, but...

KING: What's happened recently? Why would the last three weeks come into play?

K. CASH: Well, dad and June always want to Jamaica in the wintertime. And they always came home around April or May, and that's when dad and I always spent the most time together, is from spring until fall.

And I went into this big thinking thing about three weeks ago, and finally realized that's what it was. I realized that's when he would have been coming home.

KING: June was your stepmother, right?

K. CASH: Right.

KING: Were you very close with her?

K. CASH: Yes, very. I adored her. She always -- her and I had what we called our shopping sprees, when we didn't know what else to do. She'd say, "OK, you don't feel good; I don't feel good. Let's go shop."

KING: Kathy, where were you when your dad passed?

K. CASH: I was with him.

KING: You were at the bed?

K. CASH: Yes, sir.

KING: Did he die at home or in the hospital?

K. CASH: No, he passed in the hospital. Roseanne and I and John Carter were at his bed.

KING: Tommy Cash is also in Nashville, Johnny's brother. What side of Johnny -- what -- in age? Give me the age, Tommy. You're... ?

TOMMY CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S BROTHER: I'm the youngest of seven.

KING: You're the baby.

T. CASH: I'm -- I'm the baby of seven.

KING: So you're the uncle of Cindy and Kathy?

T. CASH: Yes, I am.

KING: Where were you when Johnny passed?

T. CASH: I was at home. I'd been at the hospital all evening, and I was told that, you know, some of us needed to go home and get some rest because we didn't know for sure what was going to happen.

So I went home, and my niece Kelly, Kelly Hancock, called me at five minutes after 2 a.m. and told me that he had passed.

KING: Now, he was very sick, so it couldn't have been a shock. But I'm told that when someone like that passes on, it's still a shock.

T. CASH: It was -- even though I knew it was going to happen eventually, there was no way to prepare for it. It was just as big a shock, even though I knew it was coming.

And I'll tell you what. The first two weeks after he died, I was in denial about it. But after the two weeks had passed, after his funeral is when it really hit me, and it really became obvious to me, like it had everyone else, that he was really gone.

But I've been playing his music and singing his music and listening to his music. And Larry, the memories I have to live with are tremendous.

(MUSIC)

KING: You do the same, Cindy? Do you listen to him?

C. CASH: No, I can't yet. It's really hard for me, still. I can -- I can look at video and listen to him from, like, a long time ago. But I can't see pictures of him the last...

KING: Recent?

C. CASH: ... recent pictures of him yet.

KING: Joanne, Johnny's sister, you are where in the age pattern of the Cashes?

JOANNE CASH, JOHNNY CASH'S SISTER: I'm next to youngest in the family, Larry. I'm the youngest girl. I'm the youngest sister. And...

KING: So you get to push around Tommy?

J. CASH: I do. I do as much as I can.

KING: Where were you when Johnny died?

J. CASH: My husband, Dr. Harry Yates (ph) and myself, had been at the hospital all evening, as had most of the family. And we left, I think it was close to midnight.

And then about 2 a.m. in the morning, Roseanne called me and said, "Aunt Joanne, he has just slipped away." And it was very hard. It was very hard. Not because he was Johnny Cash, as much as he was my brother. And it's been very difficult for us.

KING: And like Tommy, was it, even though it was not unexpected, it's still a shock?

J. CASH: It' still a shock, Larry, but the precious memories of the things I have with John will live with me forever.

KING: And we loved him. He was one of our favorite guests.

J. CASH: Larry, I thank you for loving him.

KING: It wasn't hard.

J. CASH: No, it wasn't.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more of the Cashes, remembering Johnny Cash on this Memorial Day night. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: We're back, remembering Johnny Cash.

Cindy, your mother's still living, right?

C. CASH: Right. Oh, yes.

KING: Johnny's first wife?

C. CASH: Right. Vivian.

KING: Was -- did you like -- did you get along with Johnny's second wife, too?

C. CASH: Oh, yes. Yes. She was -- we -- she was one of the kindest people that I've ever known.

(MUSIC)

KING: You weren't angry over the divorce?

C. CASH: I was when I was younger. Yes, of course. I mean, for years, she was where my mother was supposed to be. And -- but then, you know, you get acceptance and I've had -- got a relationship and learned to love her for who she was, and I also realized how much my dad loved her. And that was -- and it was, you know, how important she was in his life.

KING: What did your mom think about her?

C. CASH: About June?

KING: Yes.

C. CASH: Gosh, I can't speak for my mom.

KING: You think they were enemies?

C. CASH: No. I don't think so. Not at all.

KING: Kathy, when June died, do you think that spelled sort of Johnny turning toward the end?

K. CASH: Well, I think that's when dad started making a lot of preparations. I think that's when -- dad for the last year -- I spent a lot of time with dad. I'm one of the two of us kids that live in Henderson now. And we took drive to his commune, say, "Let's go to Sam's" or "Let's go to Wal-Mart" or whatever.

KING: He went to Wal-Mart?

K. CASH: All the time.

C. CASH: All the time. He was dangerous at Wal-Mart.

K. CASH: He was -- yes, he was dangerous. But -- we'd get a lot of talks, and I think a lot of times he wanted to just drive so we could talk. And we talked about everything.

And I think -- I noticed a big difference, of course, when June died. As she was dying, also, that last week. His spirit started changing a bit, and he made a lot of preparations, and he, you know, he just kind of started preparing us at the same time, which was, you know, extremely hard. We had just suffered a big loss of losing June.

KING: Yes.

C. CASH: He was a very brokenhearted man.

KING: I remember -- I remember, I guess, the next to last time I interviewed Johnny, June was right there, sitting. I can still see her sitting.

C. CASH: Always. Right.

KING: Right there just looking at him with that kind of...

C. CASH: Right.

KING: ... special feeling she had. Eyes are for him only, and he for her.

C. CASH: Right.

KING: That was really...

C. CASH: They had quite a love story. They really did.

KING: That was really special.

C. CASH: Yes.

KING: And it's said that when you have that kind of bond, when one goes, the other starts to go.

Did you feel that, Tommy?

T. CASH: Yes, I did, Larry. I've never known a man to love a woman any more than John loved June. And vice versa. And he talked to me about it after she died. And he kept saying, "I've lost -- I've lost everything. I've lost everything that means anything to me."

I think he loved all of us, especially his children and his brothers and sisters, but I've never known a love like he had for June. And vice versa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How has the marriage worked so well?

JOHNNY CASH: With June Carter?

KING: Yeah.

JOHNNY CASH: Twenty-eight years, separate bathrooms.

KING: That's one key. What's another key?

JOHNNY CASH: Give the lady her space, respect her for what she does, for what she is. If she's doing nothing but taking care of the house and kids, make her know how important that is to her, and bend over backwards, both of you have to bend over backwards to -- not necessarily to compromise yourself or what you are, what you do, but to honor the other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joanne, the -- remember -- when you think of him, is he -- you know, it's so hard when someone becomes this important. Do you think of him as your brother or Johnny Cash?

J. CASH: I think of him with what he represents to me, Larry. His -- his spiritual side, his godly side was such an inspiration to me. I -- he was the kind of brother that I could go to, as was any of our family, and he would talk to you about anything that was on your mind.

But he always had a spiritual atmosphere, spirit within him, that just made you feel better.

KING: Cindy, did -- daughters and daddies can have unique relationships. There's a special bond, right? What was yours like, and was it unbroken or was there times of difficulty?

C. CASH: Well, no, I was definitely a daddy's girl. And the bond remained, always. He -- he was always there, even -- I mean, a lot of people think he wouldn't be, because he was gone so much or he was this so much or because of who he was. But I always could find him if I needed him. Always.

And he would sometimes call me when something was wrong. He had such a gift.

KING: He had a sense of that?

C. CASH: Yes.

KING: You mean something was happening to you?

C. CASH: Yes.

KING: And he would know about it...

C. CASH: And my phone would ring. Yes. That happened all the time. I know it happened with my sisters and my brother, too. I mean, he just had an intuitive gift, to know when his children needed him.

And there was one time that I was really having a hard time, and it was midnight, and my phone rang. And he was in Canada, and he said, "I sat straight up in the bed and knew I had to call you. Are you OK?"

"No!" I mean, it was, like, boyfriend problems or something. But I was, like, crying on the phone, and he made me feel better. He always did. He always knew what to say.

KING: Back with more on the life and times of Johnny Cash. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY CASH: First time I heard it on the radio I was going through Florida, and I called Sam Phillips at Sun Records, and I said, please, don't make anymore of those records. I said, don't send out "I Walk the Line" to radio stations, I don't want to hear it anymore. And he said, well, then you'd have to keep your radio off, because it's playing everywhere.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: Kathy Cash, did you have the same kind of relationship with Johnny that your sister did?

K. CASH: Yes, definitely. All of us had -- all of us had great relationships with dad. Only, of course, our personalities are all so different. So it was -- you know, the thing about Dad is he gave you what he -- what you needed, no matter what it was at the time.

And I can honestly say I'm -- I guess this is OK. It's my age. I'm 48 years old, and dad has never, ever criticized me. I never got a lecture.

He would sit down and say, you know, "I want to talk to you about something. This bothers me." We'd talk it out. He'd hear my side. He'd tell me his side. And then he'd say, "OK, well, then it's worked out and I'm never bringing it up again." And he never, ever did. Ever.

KING: His superstardom did not ever get in the way of that relationship?

K. CASH: Oh, sure it did. In the '70s I was a teenager. And he was...

KING: Top of the world.

K. CASH: Top of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY CASH: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

K. CASH: And I was living in California. He was in Tennessee, and yes, it got in the way a lot. We made up for lost time, believe me. The last 10 years, we caught up on a lot of lost time.

KING: Tommy, you're a singer, too, right?

T. CASH: Yes, sir.

KING: All right. Frankly, is it hard to be the brother of?

T. CASH: Well, you know it was when I first started singing in the late '60s, but I let everybody else worry about that. Doesn't bother me at all. The comparison is something I've learned to live with 35, 40 years ago.

You know, I'm just really proud of him. And I hope he was proud of me. And like Kathy said, you know, I don't remember a time that he ever criticized me. He always encouraged me.

KING: You were never jealous of him?

T. CASH: Never. I never competed with him, Larry.

KING: That would be logical, by the way: younger brother...

(CROSSTALK)

T. CASH: I -- I did a whole year with him on the road in 1976. I opened the show and emceed the show for an entire year in '76. And you didn't get a lot of attention when you were working with Johnny Cash. And you know, I accepted that right from the beginning.

KING: Joanne, what kind of brother was he? We found out what kind of father. What kind of brother?

J. CASH: Well, when I would go to see him at his house, I would say, "Who are you today? Are you J.R. or Johnny?" I said, you know, J.R. is my brother; Johnny's the star. But he was always -- he was always J.R. to me. And he was always my...

C. CASH: And you were always Baby Girl.

KING: Really? He always...

C. CASH: He called her Baby Girl.

J. CASH: He said -- he would always call me Baby. I think he called all of us girls Baby.

C. CASH: He did.

J. CASH: And he said, "You're getting older. I don't think I'll call you Baby any more."

I said, "You're going to be in real trouble."

KING: How, Cindy, did you deal with his personal problems when he had the substance abuse problems?

C. CASH: You know, well, when he was in the Betty Ford Center, I went to family week and spent a week with him. And he was always very open about it. And...

KING: Did it puzzle you that a man this famous, who had it all, would need something like this? I mean, did it puzzle you?

C. CASH: Well, no, no, because I understood it. I understood addiction. And -- and like I said, we communicated about it. I mean, we -- we had each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, what was it like performing when you're on drugs?

JOHNNY CASH: Well, for a while it was OK. For a while, it was OK. For a while, Larry, when I took my first ruth (ph), I said, this is what God meant for me to have in this world. This was invented for me. You know? Honestly thought it was a blessing and a gift from God, these pills were. But then I thought, then I finally found out I was deceiving myself, that this was -- this was one of those things that had a false face, that it's the devil in disguise that's come to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you have a problem, too?

C. CASH: I did. I did, with prescription pills. I did.

KING: Did you go to Betty Ford, too?

C. CASH: No. I'm clean and sober, but I didn't go to Betty Ford.

KING: But you -- you got rid of it?

C. CASH: Right. Right.

KING: Did he help? Did you lean on each other?

C. CASH: I don't know -- well, yes, I mean, always he supported. I don't know that he helped. But he was always supportive, always. And as my mother was, also. And my whole family.

KING: How did you deal with it, Kathy?

K. CASH: With his addiction?

KING: Yes.

K. CASH: Well, when you're a little kid, you don't understand it, you know? I remember him coming home and a lot of arguing and fighting going on when mom and dad were still married, and I was, you know, small.

But after the divorce, you know, I was missing him so much that I really -- his personal things. He just -- he would write -- I was reading some letters today that I keep in my safe. And one of them said, "I'm sorry I've been sick and haven't seen you girls lately." And it was, you know, it was really a tear-jerking letter. It was two pages talking about how much he loved us and that he'd been sick and he hoped we understood.

And you know, he never really came out when we were children and said, "I'm an addict, and I'm taking things I shouldn't be taking." But as we got older, we understood.

And I think I did OK with it. It was hard some times. But I always adored him. He was always just, you know. He never took it out on us or acted hateful or anything.

KING: We get a break and come back with more. Our salute to Johnny Cash. In the last segment, we're going to meet the author of an extraordinary book about Johnny Cash. As I said, maybe the best book I've ever seen about a show business personality. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

JOHNNY CASH: When you hear addiction, I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at all. I think it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- well, maybe I did, but it was for a good purpose. I should be thankful that (UNINTELLIGIBLE), 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.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

JOHNNY CASH: It was the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the '60s. You had a lot of contact with men from seedy side of life. Really from the seedy side of life, when I got into drug addiction. And when you get thrown into jail a few times, your head knocked around a few times, your hand slapped with a black jack for (UNINTELLIGIBLE), like them I guess.

KING: Did it harden you?

JOHNNY CASH: No, it didn't harden me, not at all. No, I tell you, it softened me. I tell you, it really softened me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Let's meet the Cashes. In Los Angeles, with us is Cindy Cash, Johnny Cash's daughter and Johnny Cash's other daughter, also from the first marriage, in Nashville, is Kathy Cash. In Nashville, as well, is Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash's brother and a country music entertainer. And in Nashville is Johnny Cash's baby sister, Joanne Cash.

Tommy, how did you deal with the drug problem?

T. CASH: Well, you know, Larry, he used to scare me to death. I just knew he was going to die. But he never did, and he never will.

But you know, he always seemed to overcome somehow, he always seemed to survive. And then I would get that renewed confidence that he was going to be all right.

And there was a strain in the Cash family. I can't say that everybody in our family had an addiction, but most of us did.

KING: Joanne, how did you deal with it, as the baby sister?

J. CASH: I was very worried about him. I remember so many time momma would, and me and several different ones of us would pray. And Larry, I believe with all of my heart that prayer, from all the family, brought him through.

I don't believe it was his time to go, and God had mercy on him. He brought him back so many times. And we're so glad he did.

But I -- the worry, like Tommy said, that he was going to kill himself with the addiction. But he didn't. And I know God had a big hand in that.

KING: What part, Cindy, did religion play?

C. CASH: Religion?

KING: His faith?

C. CASH: Yes.

KING: He wasn't in organized religion.

C. CASH: Right.

KING: Didn't go to church Sunday morning.

C. CASH: Right.

KING: But he sure believed.

C. CASH: Well, yes. Yes, he believed. I think he taught me more about spirituality than -- than religion. His faith was just unbelievable, and a lot of times when I didn't have any, I would get faith from him. Because he -- he never faltered with his faith.

KING: Even through his illness, right?

C. CASH: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Are you bitter?

JOHNNY CASH: Bitter?

KING: Yeah.

JOHNNY CASH: No.

KING: I mean, you know, you're a young guy, you're only 70.

JOHNNY CASH: No, I'm not bitter. Why should I be bitter? I'm thrilled to death with life. Life is, the way God has given it to me, just a platter, a gourmet (ph) platter of life laid out there for me. It's been beautiful. I've been with you many times, Larry, and it's all been uphill every time. You remember?

KING: Yeah.

JOHNNY CASH: Yeah, things have been good. And things get better all the time.

KING: So you have no regrets?

JOHNNY CASH: No regrets.

KING: And no anger at why did God do this to me?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

K. CASH: He said a couple of weeks before his death and right after June died. He'd say -- we'd be talking; he'd say, "You know, my faith is just unshakable."

And he'd say it with such conviction. And I'd say but, "It's hard, though, isn't it, Dad?"

He said, "No. I know that there's a God there, and I know that he's -- he loves me. And I know where I'm going."

KING: Tommy, what about your brother and faith?

T. CASH: Well, Larry, I think Johnny Cash was one of the greatest Christians I ever knew in my whole life.

Many years ago, a dear friend of mine committed suicide. And the first person to call me was my brother. And he read a Bible verse to me over the telephone and told me that I was going to be OK and that the person who had taken his life would be OK.

He always seemed to know the right thing to say at the right time.

KING: He also, did he not, Joanne, know the lowest part of life? He was comfortable singing in a prison.

J. CASH: Yes, he was. Johnny was a down home country boy at heart. And the thing he said to me -- I guess one of the last things he said to me, Larry. We were talking about heaven in his little room, off of his master bedroom. And he said, "You know, I can't wait to see family that's already in heaven. I can't wait to see Jesus." And he said, "I can't wait to see my brother Jack." And he was so -- so humble and so sure of where he was going.

I believe my brother is in heaven, and I believe he's rejoicing with the Lord right now.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more. And then in the last segment, we'll meet the author of this extraordinary book I've been talking about. We'll talk about the greatness of Johnny Cash as seen by his family, right after this.

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY CASH: My mother had always told me that God had his hand on me, and I never -- I never once asked her, what do you mean by that? I just took it that that was something my mother had believed, you know? And I believe that -- yeah, I believe that there is a purpose for -- I don't know what is this, except to seek the realm of God in my life and go about it every day as if I believe what I'm doing is right.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is music always going through your head?

JOHNNY CASH: Always. Always. There's always a rhythm going in my mind, you know.

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

JOHNNY CASH: I'll either sing them -- June will tell you -- I either sing them, or get the beat going for one, but I'm writing one, yeah.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Cindy, what -- now, musically now, what was his greatness?

C. CASH: Musically, his songwriting. And his magic thumb.

(MUSIC)

KING: What about that voice like no other voice?

C. CASH: That voice was not fun when you got caught sneaking the car out at 2:00 o'clock in the morning.

KING: Not fun?

C. CASH: Not fun.

KING: Did it get deeper or higher?

C. CASH: It got very quiet.

KING: Mellifluous.

C. CASH: Yes. He -- he could scare me to death with not -- without a word spoken.

KING: Kathy, what was his greatness?

K. CASH: His greatness? His presence. You could feel him in a room before you ever turned around. I don't know. Some people -- I've met very few people like that, but dad was one of them. I could feel him, not even knowing he was walking in the room. And I would turn around and there he was.

I don't know if there was a -- spirit about him. It was just captivating.

KING: This is Memorial Day, Tommy. He was very proud of his military service, wasn't he?

T. CASH: Yes, he was. All of us Cash boys were in the military, and John was especially...

KING: Air Force, right?

T. CASH: Right. He was in the U.S. Air Force.

KING: All right, you're a singer. What was his greatness?

T. CASH: Well, you know, I think John's ability to touch the hearts of every kind of person from every walk of life. And I think that people that didn't even like country music liked Johnny Cash.

And he had a presence. We were talking about a presence a moment ago with Kathy. I toured with him a whole year in 1976, and when he would walk into a room, he would completely take it over.

He was like -- he was like a spirit to people.

KING: What was it like to watch him, Cindy, perform?

C. CASH: Every night -- every night, I mean, if I was on the road with him and I was seeing his shows every night, it was always new. I mean, it's -- I think because he always, you know, was so unpredictable with you never knew what he was going to say. He didn't say a lot on stage. He sang songs. I mean, that's what he was there to do. And I never got bored watching him.

KING: Also, Kathy, there's never been a voice quite like that, has there?

K. CASH: No. No. And it's funny, because when I think of Dad, he's such a soft, loving, kind person with the voice of God. It's like that voice, you know, it's very commanding.

And like Cindy said, it was very intimidating at times when we did something we shouldn't have done, but you know, he never spanked me, ever, in my whole life. All he did was just look at me and...

KING: You knew.

K. CASH: "You did -- you did what?" You know? That was all. That's all it took. And you'd start confessing before he could even -- even finish the sentence.

KING: Let me get a break. And when we come back, Bill Miller will join us. He has written, put together an extraordinary book, "Cash: An American Man." Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The burning ring of fire.

JOHNNY CASH: Ring of fire.

KING: Where did that come from?

JOHNNY CASH: About June Carter.

KING: Sitting right over there.

JOHNNY CASH: Yeah. June Carter (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We wrote that song for me, and...

KING: Had to like that right away.

JOHNNY CASH: When I heard that, I said that's me in that song, yeah. June Carter, yeah.

KING: You didn't stop that record.

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

(MUSIC)

KING: Joining us now in our last segment Bill Miller, the author of one of the best photo essay books I have ever seen. It's called "Cash: An American Man."

Bill, how did this come about?

BILL MILLER, AUTHOR, "CASH: AN AMERICAN MAN": Well, I was approached to do a book on Johnny. I'd known Johnny ever since I was a little kid, and I said, you know, there's already been so many -- so many books have already been done. And John wrote his autobiography twice. So how is that topped?

And they said, "Well, you have all these great things. These things you've collected on Johnny all over these years."

And I said, "Well, I'll tell you what. If I can write a book that outlines and that depicts the Johnny Cash that I knew, the man, as opposed to the myth and the legend, I'd be interested in doing that." And...

KING: This book is a masterpiece.

MILLER: Well, thank you.

KING: ... things in this book. What do the family think? Cindy, what do you think?

C. CASH: It's -- I think that it was done so elegantly and so -- in such good taste. And I think it's something dad would have been proud of.

KING: Extraordinary collection of pictures.

You have in here -- there are so many things in this book to impart. You have in here Johnny Cash's canceled checks. Checks to the Clemereau (ph) Chevrolet Company for $1,211, to Mrs. E. J. Carter for $500.

How did you get all this?

MILLER: Johnny was a big collector. And I was a big collector. And Johnny knew of my affection for him and his music and of my affinity for collecting. So over the past 30 years, this collection just grew and grew and grew. And I never really realized what was all in it, because it would be here and it would be there.

KING: Kathy, what do you think of it?

K. CASH: I think it's a masterpiece. I -- but it's made me cry. It's made me laugh. I've looked through there and thought, "Oh, I forgot about that."

KING: You see his after contracts. He got $320 for a performance in Toledo Springs (ph). The front cover of early tabloids, with Tom Jones. Pictures of -- incredible photographs. You could have a great museum.

There's one thing fascinating in here. In his own handwriting is a poem he wrote to his late wife, June, after visiting the cemetery. Now, did he give this to you?

MILLER: Yes. John, again, I think -- and we never discussed it, but I think he knew that I was going to eventually chronicle his life. And I think he wanted people to see his true feelings. Because he -- again, he's been -- you know, there's the myth and the legend, and then there is the man, the human being.

And this represents the man, the human being, the Johnny Cash that I knew, the Johnny Cash that his children knew and loved.

C. CASH: Well, what's different to me about this is that he -- dad loved Bill. He trusted him. And...

KING: Obviously.

C. CASH: ... I think when he did see something special, he gave it to Bill, because he knew it would be safe with Bill. And he knew Bill would never part with it.

KING: This is the poem that -- Johnny wrote this how soon after the visit? You were there, right?

C. CASH: I took him to the cemetery the only time he went to see June's grave. And actually, honestly, I had not read that until I read the book. I didn't know he wrote that. He must have written it the day we got back. But I have a hard time reading that.

KING: "I threw -- I threw out all the flowers that were dead. I laid the living ones down by your head. If you could see me, you would laugh, I know, for acting like a kid at 7-0. But I love you, in death as in life."

(MUSIC)

What do you think of this book, Tommy?

T. CASH: Well, Larry, I was so impressed with this book. I had come home from wherever I'd been early in the evening, found this package on my dining table. I stayed up until 2:00 o'clock in the morning reading and enjoying this book.

I think the words have already been used. It's classic. It's absolutely one of the most wonderful books I've ever seen. It also touches on some of Johnny's very personal moments, on the very personal things in his life.

KING: Oh, does it. You also have in front of you the lyrics -- is this the last song he wrote?

MILLER: This is the last song John wrote, and...

KING: It's in the book. "My Lord Has Gone," right?

MILLER: "My Lord Has Gone."

KING: Has it been recorded?

MILLER: It was never recorded. Johnny was going to record it, and he wasn't feeling well at the last recording session, and he said to Dave Ferguson -- Dave said, "Would you like to record the song, John?"

And he said, "I don't have a melody for it, and I want to leave now."

KING: Who will record this? Do you know?

MILLER: I don't know. I don't know. I don't own the song. I own the paper...

KING: Read it for us.

MILLER: "My Lord Has Gone. My Lord has gone to make a place for me. I heard that it's a mansion that will stand eternally. I dreamed that I was walking by the Sea of Galilee. Through tear-filled eyes, he saw me. And he said, 'Follow me,' walking by the Sea of Galilee.

"I saw him on the road to Jericho. He picked up a broken man and said, 'I've healed you. Go.' Walking on the road to Jericho. They laid the palms before him on the way, but they -- but there they crucified him. He'd not a word to say. They treated him in hatred on that day. But he called down from heaven just for me. He said, 'Your mansion's ready, as soon you will be.' He called down from heaven just for me."

And that was written less than three weeks before he passed away.

KING: Joanne, what do you think of the book?

J. CASH: I think it's wonderful. There are three things. I absolutely laughed for a long time on page 64, his things to do today list. And I won't -- I won't go over the whole list, but everybody needs to -- everybody needs to read that, because that was so him. He was so honest and so precise and to the point.

And also, I believe it's on page 110, his bible college days.

K. CASH: Right there.

J. CASH: I sat beside him during those bible college days. And my husband wrote the chorus that is in the book.

KING: Here's the things he had to do today.

C. CASH: It's hilarious.

KING: "Not smoke, one. Two, kiss June. Three, not kiss anyone else. Four, cough. Five, pee. Six, eat. Seven, not eat too much. Eight, worry. Nine, go see Momma. Ten, practice piano. Notes: Don't write notes."

J. CASH: Larry, that was so him. That -- that is the essence of him. He's so honest.

C. CASH: That's one thing nobody really knew about him, is he was so (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: We have less than a minute left.

MILLER: Larry, the -- 100 percent of the royalties that I receive from the book are being donated to the SOS Children's Village of Jamaica, which was Johnny's favorite charity.

KING: Let's hope they build a memorial to him and maybe name the Country Music Awards in his honor. That's not a bad idea. C. CASH: That's not a bad idea.

KING: Thank you all very much.

C. CASH: Thank you. Thank you.

KING: Cindy Cash, Kathy Cash, thank you. Tommy Cash, Joanne Cash and Bill Miller, author of "Cash: An American Man." Should be in everybody's house.

We thank you for joining us on this Memorial Day. I'll tell you about tomorrow night right after this.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. For the whole Cash family and Bill Miller, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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