Johnny Cash was a beloved singer-songwriter and made a significant impact during his time and to this day. However, like many stars, their life before notoriety is seldom known to great detail, such as whether or not Cash was in the military.
Johnny Cash was in the United States Air Force between 1950-1954. This is when he had to change his name, met his wife, learned the guitar, formed his first band, and served his country.
To learn more about these pivotal years in Johnny Cash’s life and his role in the military, keep following the story below.
Johnny Cash’s Young Life
Born as J. R. Cash, and forced to change it to John. R Cash to enlist, Johnny Cash did not receive his final stage name until he signed to Sun Records in 1955.
Cash was born in Arkansas, and graduated high school in 1950, just in time for the Korean War. Many men during that time waited to be drafted for a two year service sentence, yet Cash enlisted for four.
To see a video compilation of Johnny Cash singing “I Won’t Back Down” dedicated to the United States Armed Force, see below.
July 7, 1950 was the day that J. R. Cash enlisted in the Air Force and left his home state to go to Texas for training. He received basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and continued on to technical training at Brooks Air Force Base.
After all his training in San Antonio, he was sent to Landsberg, Germany, or more specifically southern Bavaria, where he was a Morse Code Intercept Operator. During his training in Texas, he met his future wife, Vivian Liberto, whom he only dated three weeks before being sent overseas.
They exchanged letters for years and married after his return in ‘54. However, his relationship with her was not the only momentous aspect of these four years.
While there, he was only allowed one phone call per year and was totally detached and was totally on his own. He used his military pay and treated himself to a guitar.
He saw the film “Inside Folsom Prison” and felt he could largely relate to the feeling of being a prisoner in his current position since he was in a confidential, Security Service unit in the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile. He was very successful at his job as well, and was one of the first to hear news of Stalin’s death.
After seeing the film, he wrote his famous song “Folsom Prison Blues” and he even started his band called “The Landsberg Barbarians.” He would play for the GIs and local Germans, and at events that packed the local officer club.
To hear Johnny Cash’s infamous “Folsom Prison Blues, ” listen on Spotify below.
Link from Military to Music
Johnny Cash was honorably discharged in July of 1954 and returned to Texas.
It is no surprise that Johnny Cash had such a successful music career after his job in the military. It is said that people who work with signal codes have a strong correlation to musical ability.
There is an art and a musical cadence to Morse code. It can be melodic and soothing to some, identical to that of a song.
It shows that since Cash had the capacity to discern rhythms and resonance in a sea of mangled, confusing noise, it gave him the ability to perform, write, and sing in a way that resonated with many individuals for years to come.
Johnny Cash toured Vietnam with the U.S. State Department and often played for the troops as well.
To hear a bit of how Morse Code has musical tendencies to it, watch the video below.