A Conversation with John Carter Cash

John Carter Cash

John Carter Cash

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Tuesday Agency.

John Carter Cash, having been involved in music all of his life, is an accomplished and award-winning record producer. However, his activities in the creative world reach far beyond music production. He is also a singer-songwriter and author. The grandson of Maybelle Carter and the only son of John R. Cash and June Carter Cash, he preserves the family legacy and is a caretaker to the heritage of his musical ancestors.

He began his walk as a music producer with his mother, June Carter Cash, on her CD, “Press On,” which won a Grammy in 1999, then went on to work under Rick Rubin as Associate Producer on his father Johnny Cash’s Grammy winning records—“American III: Solitary Man” and “American IV: The Man Comes Around,” the latter receiving three CMA awards.

He also produced his mother’s record—“Wildwood Flower,” which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk album in 2003. His 2004 production “Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family” received three Grammy nominations. John Carter is co-producer on Marty Stuart’s CD, “Badlands.  The CD “The Voice of the Spirit, the Gospel of the South,” released in April of 2006, received critical acclaim. His production of Billy Joe Shaver’s “Everybody’s Brother,” helped earn a Grammy nomination in 2007.

John Carter has produced material for Loretta Lynn, Josh Turner, Brooks & Dunn, Elvis Costello, Wylie and the Wild West, Dr. Ralph Stanley, George Jones, Mavis Staples, Lynda Carter, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Sheryl Crow, John Randal and Jessi Alexander, Norman and Nancy Blake, Tim O’Brien, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Earl and Randy Scruggs, Rosanne Cash, John Cowan, Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Tony Rice, and John Prine. He has been a producer on five Grammy Award-winning records.

John Carter’s first CD of his own music titled “Bitter Harvest” was released only to the international market in 2003. His latest CD entitled “The Family Secret” is available everywhere and received a three-starred review in “Rolling Stone.”

He is the author of three children’s books: “Momma Loves Her Little Son,” “Daddy Loves His Little Girl,” and his latest release, “The Cat in the Rhinestone Suit.” He authored a biography on his mother, “Anchored in Love,” on which a film is currently in production and one on his personal relationship with his father entitled “House of Cash: The Legacies of My Father Johnny Cash.” His first novel, a fantasy titled “Lupus Rex,” was released in June of 2013.

John Carter Cash owns and operates Cash Productions, LLC and the Cash Cabin Studio near Nashville in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He is the father to three children: Anna Maybelle Cash, Joseph John Cash, and his youngest, John Ezra Cash.


VIP: Describe your appearance at the Jackson-Madison County Library fundraiser on October 6, which is billed as “An Evening of Storytelling and Songs with John Carter Cash.” Do you know your topic yet?

John Carter Cash: I will go through a history of my family which means definitely Johnny Cash, of course, but also the Carter family. They started making music back in 1920. My grandmother Maybelle was in the Carter family as was my great uncle and great aunt, and they had a lot to do with the formation of country music as we know it. The evening presentation will consist of stories and anecdotes with some music. My fiancée, Ana Cristina, will perform with me. The Daeger Brothers will back me up.

It is a bit of history, but it’s also a little bit of music and it connects the person there with my family history on a very personal level but also the history of  country music and maybe a touch about moral behavior and attitude and respect for those we love who have come and gone.

Kellye Cash Sheppard will sing the National Anthem. Her father is my eldest first cousin. It will be a treat to see Kelly and other family members there.

According to Mary Elaine Christian, chair of the Jackson-Madison County Foundation Board,” this is their sixth annual Books of Madison County event. “Every year we try to keep our event fresh and exciting! John Carter Cash is Tennessee Country Music royalty! We were intrigued by his combination of storytelling and musical performance when we made this year’s selection.
 John Carter is an accomplished author, songwriter, producer and entertainer. We are also excited about having former Miss America Kellye Cash Sheppard on hand to sing the National Anthem! Our “Dream Team” Foundation Board has been working on this program for many months. We believe this program will have strong appeal to our Library Foundation supporters, and it will draw new interest in our efforts to support our local library.”


VIP: I have read “House of Cash: The Legacies of My Father, Johnny Cash,” “Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash, and “Lupus Rex,” a fantasy novel, and our enterprising library director, Dinah Harris, located for me “Recipes and Memories from Mama Cash’s Kitchen” with your dad’s famous chili recipe. Do you use his chili recipe?

JCC: My dad taught me how to make chili. My version of it is the way he taught me how to make it. I make it every year when the weather turns.


VIP: What do you enjoy about being an author? You are multi-talented since you also write and perform and produce recordings for artists like Loretta Lynn, Elvis Costello and the late Merle Haggard.

JCC: Yes, I love writing. I love books. I love delving into the heart and that is what it really is about in a way that I can possibly help other people and relate that to somebody….I’m grateful to write the books that I have written. To me it’s about touching people and hopefully I can do that with my work.


VIP: A few Friday afternoons ago I visited the Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville located at 119 3rd Avenue South (www.johnnycashmuseum.com). It is a very interesting museum and it was very busy. Multiple languages were spoken by guests when I visited. Angela Dodson, the museum’s marketing director, gave me a private tour and your ears must have burned as she said such nice things about you. She told me that “you are so well spoken, so down to earth and genuine and a very kind person considering your family was country music royalty.”

One popular area of the museum is a technology-driven area that provides attendees the opportunity to mix their own version of Johnny’s songs. (This is Angela’s favorite area of the museum.) Guests enjoyed having their photo made with Johnny, and the Music Room stayed full where visitors listened to a Cash concert.

Talk about the importance of the Johnny Cash Museum to your family and to Nashville.

JCC: Within the past 10 years Nashville has become a different city. It is now booming….It has become a cultural city. I believe it’s because my father crossed the lines and crossed divisions. He touched many people—the rock and roll fan, the country music fan, the punk fan. He was every man’s entertainer. A lot of Nashville’s boom has come about because of the love for my father’s music, his heritage, and the continuance of that legacy.

Note: Johnny Cash’s drummer, W.S. Holland, lives in Jackson, I reminded John, who said “Yes, I’ve traveled many, many miles with him.”


VIP: My tour guide told me that a Patsy Cline Museum will be on the second floor soon. Do you know the timeline of that museum?

JCC: I believe that Mr. Bill Miller, who coordinated the Johnny Cash Museum, is involved with the Patsy Cline Museum, but I do not know when it will open.


VIP: Do you have favorite exhibits in the Johnny Cash Museum?

JCC: I really like the main or central exhibit when you first walk into the museum. You’re looking back at the beginning of my father’s career, the different stages of his life. He stayed true to what he believed in. He made wonderful music throughout his career. That’s evident the moment you look down the aisle. That’s what I remember the most when I think about it.

Within the last 10 years Nashville has become a different city. It is now booming! It has become a cultural city….My father crossed the lines and he touched many people—the rock and roll fan, the country music fan, and the punk fan. He was every man’s entertainer. A lot of Nashville’s boom has come about because of the love for my father’s music, his heritage and the continuance of that legacy.
— John Carter Cash

VIP: Share one memory of your parents.

JCC: The times that mean the most to me were the times when we traveled the world. We visited some amazing places. We met wonderful people from farmers in rural Idaho to presidents of the United States. However, the times that mean the most to me were the times I spent with them doing the simple things. We loved the outdoors and we went on fishing trips and we went into the wilderness.  I’ll never forget it. I’m grateful for the time that I spent with them.


VIP: Are you working on another book?

JCC: Right now I’m mostly working in the studio with my fiancé, who is working hard on an album. I just finished a Loretta Lynn Christmas album and some Cash projects that I’m really excited about that have to do with my father’s legacy.


VIP: You have written three children’s books. What are the challenges of writing children’s books?

JCC: Mama always said to me “Write from the heart.”  I have two sons and a daughter. My latest book title is “The Cat in a Rhinestone Suit.”


VIP: Do you write songs daily and do you write in your studio?

JCC: I write on a regular basis with friends. I also put a lot of people together to write together. I believe in creativity and the Cash Studio is a creative house and that’s what it’s all about.


VIP: Where do you go when you need total peace and quiet?

JCC: I’ve been known to shut the doors here at my own home. I spend a lot of time in southwestern Virginia where my mother’s people are from.  I have family there whom I love dearly. I have a place in Hickman County and I spend some time there.


VIP: Tell me about Ruth and Rev. Billy Graham. In your book “Anchored in Love” you wrote the following: “To me there are no two more loving and humble people than BiIly and Ruth Graham. I will love them the rest of my life.”

They developed a close relationship with your parents, didn’t they? How did it come about that they corresponded with each other?

JCC: I think my father and Billy, who knew my father was a Christian, also knew that my father had a lot of followers, some of whom were on the wrong side of things. I think Billy realized that he might be able to reach some people he would not reach otherwise.  He was not afraid to say ‘I’m a Christian. I’m here because of my faith, and I’m not ashamed to share my story and to admit my failures.’ Billy saw that. So he and my father were brothers in Christ.


VIP: What are your hobbies?

JCC: Fishing and hunting, travel, spending time with my children, snow skiing, and I do a lot of hiking.


VIP: What’s next on your drawing board?

JCC: Whatever it feels like creatively. The rest of this week I’m working in the studio mixing some material that I’ve been recording. And I plan on writing another book within the next year. I’ll be getting back into writing. It’ll probably be another fantasy book. I read a whole lot as a child. I got that from my parents, who had that same love for reading.


What To Know

6th Annual Books of Madison County Library Fundraiser
Walk the Line! An Evening of Storytelling and Songs
with John Carter Cash with special guest Kellye Cash Sheppard
Thursday, October 6 at 6 pm
The Jackson Fairgrounds at 800 S. Highland

Catered wine dinner by Elegant Events and silent auction featuring entertainment and food. Cocktail hour at 6 pm with entertainment by Scott Myatt. Dinner at 7 pm followed by the speaker’s presentation and performance. Book signing will follow.

Single ticket: $75. Available at both Main Library downtown and the North Branch or by mail. Call (731) 425-8600. The proceeds from this event benefit the Jackson-Madison County Library Foundation. The funds raised will enhance the technological abilities of the library, improve the areas for children and teens and will be used for other needed improvements in equipment and programming.