Johnny Cash’s Real Name (+Other Lesser-Known Facts)

by Frederik Nielsen, Jun 5, 2020 . 3 min read

Johnny Cash’s Real Name (+Other Lesser-Known Facts)

Johnny Cash: real name or not? Even though he passed nearly two decades ago, Johnny Cash is still popular today — even outside of his genre. His songs still have a profound impact on his listeners and his legend will probably outlive most of his peers.

Today, we’re going to find out Johnny Cash’s real name and a few other less-known facts about the country’s favorite black-suit-wearing outlaw.

1. Mr. Cash’s Real Name

As you might’ve guessed, Johnny Cash wasn’t born with that name. Contrary to what you might’ve guessed, the surname is the real part.

So what’s his real first name?

Johnny Cash’s real name is J.R. His father wanted to name him Ray and his mother wanted River to be his name. They settled for J.R. instead — obviously.

He changed his name to John R. Cash when he applied for the Air Force in the early 1950s.

2. His Weird Relationship With Birds

Johnny had a strange relationship with birds. In the mid-80s, his record label convinced him to record “Chicken in Black” a storytelling song in which he swaps brains with a chicken.

He also had a pet ostrich on his farm, which once tried to kill him. But Johnny got his revenge. Disproportionally so, in fact.

He once almost killed an entire species of endangered condors by starting a forest fire at the Los Padres National Wildlife Refuge camp.

3. He Didn’t Spend Too Much Time in Jail

The incident above earned him a strange honor: Johnny Cash was the first person in the history of the United States to be sued for starting a forest fire.

Despite numerous arrests, outlaw image, and two best-selling albums recorded in prison, he didn’t spend too much time in a prison cell. In fact, there’s a good chance he only spent a single night in jail.

4. He Became a Real Minister in the 1970s

Early in his career, Johnny had an addiction problem. Like many musicians before and after him, he turned to religion for help.

In the 1970’s he associated himself with numerous evangelists. He even studies theology and became a certified minister. That led to him presiding at his daughter’s wedding years later.

5. Johnny Loved Hanging Out With Presidents

Although he was never associated with any political party, Mr. Cash loved having good friends in high places. Over the years, he befriended several US presidents.

It started with Nixon in the 1970s and lasted until George W. Bush in the 2000s. He was especially close to his wife’s distant relative, Jimmy Carter.

Did You Know Johnny Cash’s Real Name?

How much of a fan are you? Did you know the famous outlaw was born J.R.? If you want to read more obscure facts about Mr. Cash, we got you covered. You can also read about that one time Johnny covered a Trent Reznor song.



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