One of the greatest memories of any country musician’s career is when they get the opportunity to perform at the Grand Ole Opry for the very first time. Ask anyone of today’s country artists, and we are pretty sure they’d say their Opry debut was one of the most unforgettable memories of their life to date.
It wasn’t any different 60 years before when, on July 7, 1956, a star on the rise in the country music industry made his very first appearance on the widely recognized Opry stage. His name was Johnny Cash, and that night would mean more to him than he could ever have imagined. Not only was it the night of his Opry premier, but it was also the night he met the love of his life, June Carter.
During a tour with Elvis Presley, Carter became a huge fan of Cash and his fantastic music. The feeling was definitely mutual, since Cash had grown up listening to June singing in their family group, The Carter Family.
After running into each other backstage, Cash and Carter felt like they had known each other for a long time. “I’ve always wanted to meet you,” Cash apparently told Carter, to which she replied, “I feel like I know you already.” Twelve years after their very first meeting, Cash and Carter got married, and stayed together until Carter’s death on May 15, 2003.
Although Cash had only been active as an artist for two years by the time of his Opry debut, he had already achieved a number of hits under his name. His single, “I Walk The Line,” was steadily climbing in the charts. Two weeks later, the song reached the top spot, and soon after became one of Cash’s trademark tunes.
Still, the Opry had its doubts about “The Man in Black.” According to author Robert K. Oermann, who wrote “Behind the Grand Ole Opry: Tales of Romance and Tragedy,” Cash mentioned that the Opry manager at the time, Jim Denny, had asked why Cash believed he should be performing there. Cash explained, “He looked at my black clothes and long hair and sideburns and said, ‘What makes you think you belong on the Grand Ole Opry?’ So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a record in the Top 10’ … I said, ‘I think they’d like to hear me.'”
Needless to say, Cash ended up being right, and it’s quite likely that his Opry debut was connected to his “I Walk the Line” hitting the top spot on the charts two weeks later. During the performance, Cash played “I Walk the Line,” “Get Rhythm” and also “So Doggone Lonesome.”
As there are no video clips from Cash’s Opry introduction, we hope you’ll like the video below of one of his earliest Opry performances of “So Doggone Lonesome.” Cash was indeed meant to be a star from the beginning!