Profiles in Time: Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash: The Musician

Johnny Cash was a master of many genres—rock, blues, and gospel—but he’s most notable for his influence on country music. With his signature black duds and a Rolex on his wrist, he was a stark contrast to the traditional country singer image. Cash certainly wasn’t a cowboy. He was an outlaw.

Johnny Cash and his guitar

Early in his career, Cash struggled for recognition. He also had a tough time getting signed by a record label. After graduating from high school and a brief stint in the Air Force, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and married his first wife. There, he worked as an appliance salesman while trying to pursue his music.

In 1954, at the age of 22, Cash joined with two other musicians to form Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. But it wasn’t until 1956 that Cash became a star with his single I Walk the Line, which topped the country music charts at number one.

Johnny Cash: His Personal Life

As his fame rose, Johnny Cash’s health and personal life declined. His first wife divorced him in 1966, and throughout the decade, he had several arrests and near-death experiences tied to drugs and alcohol. Cash was approaching rock bottom when he was saved by one of his former touring companions, fellow singer-songwriter June Carter. She encouraged him to get treatment for his addiction. Eventually, the two married.

With Carter by his side, Cash reclaimed his craft and career. His next album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, won two Grammy awards. Cash published his autobiography, Man in Black, in 1975. In 1980, he became the youngest living inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The 1980s also marked the resurgence of Cash’s struggle with substance abuse, which he battled for the remainder of his life.

Despite his vices, Cash’s natural talent always eclipsed his personal issues. He continued making music until his death in 2003—just a week before he passed, he finished the last track on his final record, American V: A Hundred Highways.

Johnny Cash: The Watches

From his rise to fame in the 1950s until the day he died, Cash was dedicated to one watch brand: Rolex. However, he never stuck to one particular watch. Over the years, he accumulated a number of Rolex timepieces in his collection.

One of his earlier models was a 1950s yellow gold Oyster Perpetual, which sold at Sotheby’s in 2004 for $7,200. There’s another Rolex captured in a few earlier photos of the singer, but it’s tough to identify. What’s notable about it is the dial is his signature color: black. So, it could be an Explorer or Datejust. Still, he was most well-known for wearing a yellow gold President Day-Date.

Johnny Cash - Rolex Oyster Perpetual

At his first show, he wore a black shirt and jeans and believed the color brought him good luck. From that moment on, he wouldn’t perform without wearing his signature hue. This earned him the nickname “The Man in Black.” To complete his slick, stoic appearance, Cash sported a Rolex on his wrist. He certainly wasn’t a typical country singer. However, Cash made a lasting impact on the genre ultimately helping shape today’s country music.


Johnny Cash


Check out other Profiles in Time, like Willie Nelson.

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Latest comments
  • Johnny Cash is one of my all time favorites.

  • I love Johnny cash. One of my favorite singers.