Johnny Cash the Legend and me
I never met Johnny Cash, but I helped him become a legend. In the early '50's I sang in the choir at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Memphis,Tn. It was announced that Sam Phillips was trying to form a group of singers for back-up for a couple of new artist. Place: Sun Records. I was 21 and jumped at it. Unlike the relaxed atmosphere of today, we were 'all dressed up." And Sam, well he looked like a Philadelphia lawyer. Silk shirt, cuff links, tie, and his black shoes had a Chattanooga shoe shine.
He played a few tracks laid down by Johnny. "I'm going to make this boy a star, he said. The album is just a little dull in places, and I LOVE gospel music. I want a gospel sound." We, (about 10 of us) gathered around 3 microphones and did exactly what he instructed us to do. He would dash into the recording room and adjust a microphone, and run back to the control room. Excited. He really did like gospel.
The last recording was "I Walk The Line". Sam said, "No harmony on this one. I just want to emphasize the chord changes. And just hum." And hum, we did. It was strange, but we did it. That was the original recording. It has been recorded many times since, in different ways. But when Johnny performed it....he, himself would always hum on the chord changes.
That night, being around Sam, such a driven man and his ideas made me realize that I was in the presence of something big. The group dwindled down and we were called The Gene Lowery Singers. Our next recording was for an old country boy....Charlie Rich. I never met him either.
Today, I am in my 70's, and sometimes when I'm pushing a cart in the grocery store or shopping at Walmart, I hear the songs played on the intercom. I feel a bit proud. By golly, this old dude backed up a legend. In a small teeny weeny way, I helped 'make him'. Kudo's Johnny! and Charlie! ...... RIP
Charlie-Lonely Weekends, Our group The Gene Lowery Singers
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