Yer Weekend Chuckle: A “Thanks” for the Ages

| February 5, 2022

Johnny Cash was a legendary figure in American music. I’ve mentioned him previously in comments to articles at TAH, as well as featuring one of his late-career collaborations in this article.

And yeah, that means I’m about to go on another music-related walkabout. You’ve been forewarned.

But if you read on, I think you’ll get a chuckle out of this one. (smile)

. . .

From his beginnings in the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, Johnny Cash was one of the biggest names in country music as well as one of the most successful. He also had substantial crossover appeal on the pop music scene of the day, and hosted his own TV show on ABC for a while (1969-1971).

But his career – and his relationship with the music industry – wasn’t always “smooth sailing”. From the mid/late 1970s to the early 1990s, Cash’s career as a significant recording artist appeared to be winding down if not over. His popularity waned, and he was even dropped by two recording companies because of poor sales (Columbia in the mid-1980s and Mercury in 1991).

However, two chance meetings then occurred that were instrumental in changing his career for the better.

In early February 1993, Cash was in Dublin, Ireland, on tour. While there he met with members of U2. (He’d previously met Bono and Adam Clayton of U2 in 1988.) This chance meeting led to Cash recording the lead vocal for the tune “The Wanderer” on U2’s 1993 album Zooropa during his stay. And later that same month, Cash met with Rick Rubin of American Recordings in Santa Anna, California.

The two events set in motion Cash’s late-career resurgence. U2’s Zooropa stayed on the charts for months and was also a hit with the critics – and “The Wanderer” was a big part of that. Next, Cash’s first two albums on Rubin’s American Recordings label were critically acclaimed (even if not as successful on the charts as U2’s smash).

In fact, both of Cash’s first two albums with Rubin (1994’s “American Recordings” and 1996’s “Unchained”) received Grammy Awards. The former received the Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Folk Recording” for 1994; the latter received the Grammy Award for “Best Country Album” for 1997.

Still: there was a problem. Cash’s new American Recordings albums – though critically acclaimed – just weren’t getting much airplay. Most of mainstream country radio simply wouldn’t play Cash’s new material; the Nashville country music establishment didn’t seem to care about it, either. Both appeared to consider Cash’s music, and Cash, “passé” and not worth airtime.

So in early 1998, Rick Rubin decided to see what he could do to change the situation. He chose to do so by thanking the Nashville music establishment on Cash’s behalf. But first, a bit of background is in order.

. . .

During his heyday, Cash developed a rather well-deserved reputation as a rebellious and somewhat unpredictable individual. He also was perceived as identifying strongly with the outcast elements of society – which appears to have been an accurate reading of his personality. Cash recorded a Grammy-nominated (it didn’t win) album titled Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian that highlighted historical wrongs done to Native Americans. Further, two of his most famous (and most critically-acclaimed) albums were recorded at shows performed for prison inmates in California prisons: Folsom and San Quentin.

While at San Quentin in 1969, during pre-concert activities noted popular music photographer Jim Marshall took a series of photographs of Cash documenting the visit. One of those photos has become famous – but only after it had remained virtually unknown for close to 20 years.

Marshall has stated that the photograph in question was taken in response to Marshall telling Cash, “John, let’s do a shot for the warden,” during a photo shoot prior to the show. Other accounts indicate it was taken when a fed-up Cash’s vented his frustration with a TV crew that had accompanied him and his party to film the concert for a BBC TV documentary. Either account is consistent with the photo’s content.

Assuming Marshall’s account is correct, if you know anything about Cash’s history you can probably guess what happened. Cash complied, non-verbally showing just what he thought of authority figures in general.

Given the sensibilities of the day (late 1960s), the photo remained mostly under wraps for years. Bootleg copies appeared on occasion (as did unauthorized merchandise featuring it without Marshall’s permission as copyright holder). But it doesn’t appear to have ever been officially released until publication of the first book covering Marshall’s work in 1997.

In any case, Rubin learned of the photo and obtained a copy. In early 1998 Rubin created an ad based on the photo as a way to “thank” the Nashville music establishment for their support of Cash’s recent work.

Ruben then told Cash that he wanted to run the ad in a major trade publication, and showed the ad to Cash. He asked Cash’s permission to do this.

Cash reputedly had misgivings about the proposed ad, as did some in his family. By one account, Cash even approached Billy Graham – with whom he was friends – for his take on the matter. (Graham reportedly didn’t tell Cash what he should do, saying only that he wouldn’t judge Cash either way.)

Cash eventually gave his go-ahead. And in Billboard Magazine’s March 14, 1998 issue, Rubin’s full-page ad appeared.

A Bowderized version of the ad appears below. (The original might be considered NSFW at some places, and I don’t want to get anyone viewing this article in trouble accidentally.) However, a scan of the uncensored original may be viewed here).

Running the ad cost $20,000. The publicity it created for Rubin and Cash – as well as he satisfaction I’m sure they got from running it? Priceless. (smile)

If there’s ever been a better sarcastic “Thank you for your support” in history, I’d love to hear of it. IMO this one’s damn near impossible to top.

. . .

That’s all for today. Walkabout complete; enjoy the rest of your day/weekend.

Category: Pointless blather, Who knows, YGBSM!!

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There is a fairly large piece of the story missing. Cash underwent a personal religious revival and found Jesus in the 70s. This played a huge influence on his later work. HE credits this with helping him with drug addiction and saving his life.

This was in the era before Christian Adult Contemporary music was popular and was why radio mostly refused to play his stuff. This is also why he consulted Graham prior to the ad being published.

Like a lot of music U2 makes the Wanderer has strong Christian undertones reflecting the beliefs of the band. This was a huge negative at the time it was released.


My dad had a stack of Johnny Cash albums, including “Bitter Tears”. All on orange vinyl, 1960’s Thai bootleg copies. I think they were like a nickel apiece. Great copies but very short lived. So soft they’d droop if you held the edge. Dad bought hundreds of them and immediately put them on reel-to-reel.


Really liked the ’70s Cash stuff like Ragged Old Flag, John R. Cash, etc. but I frequently cite seeing him as my worst concert disappointment. I did read in his autobiography he checked back in to rehab a couple of days later.


FIRST it makes me a bit blue to think folks have to have Johnny Cash’s life explained to them – but the youngsters may not know it.

One of the things that always attracted me to him (after I got old enough to pay attention) was his blunt honesty, about his struggles, his beliefs, his failures and successes.

His autobiography Man in Black is on my shelf (along with several others’) and is, IMHO, worth the read.

I can totally see why Billy Graham withheld advice. He probably knew Cash was being blackballed because of his faith and convictions (among other factors listed by Hondo which, realistically, were probably equally influential.) Graham could not, as the world’s best-known evangelist, put his “seal of approval” on such a photo, but he undoubtedly understood the sentiment.


Spot on Graybeard. I always had much respect, admiration, and appreciation of “The Man in Black”, warts and all. Nashville Record Execs? Not so much. Most of them rank right down there with lawers, used car salesmen, military phonies, and whale poop. And that whole Country/Pop BS that took over back yonder? PHHTTTTT! *spit* Sadly, a number of radio stations that call themselves “Classic Country” are calling that genre Classic Country. And it’s not. And most of today’s “Country Music” is not either. As Possum Jones said so eloquently… “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”


I don’t think we are going to find many fans of record company execs.


Fans of record company execs are to be found along with fans of:

  • MSM talking heads,
  • The View pitooee
  • Slow Jo and d’Ho
  • sapos
  • BLM
  • etc.

Thanks Hondo. I’d not seen that one before.
Have you ever looked at ?
They are a kind of clearing house for used bookstores in the USA and overseas (to some extent).
They list it for $5.44 including shipping, used.
(I sort by lowest total price. A nice feature I wish others had.)

Daisy Cutter

As absurd as this will sound it is true:

There is a clause in the Johnny Cash estate that there is one song that can never be licensed to be used for hemorrhoid creme…

… “Ring of Fire.”

Look it up O Ye of Little Doubt.


Do you remember who wrote Ring of Fire?

June Carter – about their relationship. She said Johnny sang it differently than she had envisioned it.

Daisy Cutter

That was what was put forth on an episode of the game show “The Chase” – that there is a clause with the estate (not Johnny Cash, but his estate) where the clause specifies that the song is not to be used for hemorrhoid creme. Perhaps it came about as a result of what happened? We may be saying the same thing, but that is how the question and answer were stated on the game show.

Daisy Cutter

Hondo – thanks for the breakdown. A few thoughts:

  • I will leave the door open for the possibility that I heard it wrong or ‘assumed facts into evidence’ 😉 I specifically recall hearing the term ‘estate’ and ‘clause’ and it was of Johnny Cash vs. June Carter, and I looked up the bit about the hemorrhoid creme to confirm. As far as I went. Pride is not getting in the way of my recall. If I got it wrong, I got it wrong but I again I recall the word ‘estate’ so this is separate and distinct from a one-time incident and business decision.
  • The game show got their facts wrong – that could be a possibility. It may have been a one-time incident and they made the jump to it being a clause/rule/mandate when it was merely a single occurrence.


Daisy Cutter

… I dunno. I have no emotional investment either way.
My intent was to point to something humorous and that humor was “Ring of Fire” and hemorrhoids causing a burning sensation around the anus. Jokes lose their punch when they need explaining but the humor I found in this was it was a song about love and it was an attempt to attach it to something about an anus.

Extremely rudimentary attempt at humor. Probably very litte.

Sort of like “So, an elephant walks into a bar…”

Let me stop you right there. An elephant cannot walk into a bar. The door is too small and they’d have to be in Africa…
(creative license… the focus is on the humor)


Daisy Cutter

(…) I do, however, concede that this opens up an opportunity to legally explore what happened in the case of the Carter-Cash hemorrhoid dustup. We may need a thorough legal analysis, and I sincerely would find the results interesting but it does go beyond my simple quip.

Some years back they did an excellent segment on “60 Minutes” talking about celebrities that died and how the financial management of their brand is fiercely protected. They may have mentioned “estate” but it was more closely tied to the licensing of their brand – music, films, etc. If that is “estate” then so be it. Too far back for me to remember. Some of these celebrities make more in death than they did while they were alive. Highly lucrative business for an attorney to oversee the brands/estates of the deceased.

Daisy Cutter

Wasn’t exactly how I remember it, but here it is:

(NOTE: The version I saw was on the American version of “The Chase” but I suspect it was the same question. Suspect I was wrong about the term “estate” and maybe assumed that from the family and after his death. Definitely not a clause so were referring to a singular event, but reason to believe they would never license it for use in a hemorrhoid commercial.)


Johnny Cash does a better rendition of hurt by. Nine inch nails than they did.

Give it a listen if you have not heard it.


I’ve seen that video. It is powerful.

The Stranger

Well, 50 years of hard living and seeing your friends die off one by one will lead to the depth of emotion that you see and hear in Johnny Cash’s version. I agree with Hondo, the video makes this song. It’s tough to watch sometimes, especially the scenes with June.