By on July 13, 2014


No, that is not a metaphor for The Man in Black’s musical legacy.


The ABC TV network was so delighted by the success of The Johnny Cash Show that they presented Cash, in lieu of more cash, with a 1970 Rolls-Royce long-wheelbase Silver Shadow, complete with division. (Note that long-wheelbase Shadows were often badged “Silver Wraith” — JB) The “division” being the pane of interior glass that isolated the chauffeur in the front compartment, thereby adding to the passengers’ privacy. Perhaps as an homage to Henry Ford’s Model T, Johnny Cash’s Shadow was delivered in—black. Cash’s initials appear on the rear doors.

The Johnny Cash Show ran in 58 episodes from June 1969 to March 1971. In retrospect, it is easy to imagine that the show was able to go forward only as the result of an uneasy truce under which the network executives crammed has-beens on the order of alleged comedian George Gobel and oldsters like Bob Hope down Cash’s throat.

That was the price Cash had to pay to have his own show and to be able to feature fresh talent like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan on his own show’s opening night. To Cash’s credit, over the run of the series, his guest lists included Louis Armstrong (who died only weeks after the taping), Odetta, Charley Pride, and The Staples Singers.

My favorite The Johnny Cash Show moment came when Cash sang a duet (obviously a lightly-rehearsed duet), with Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot. Although Lightfoot had recently recorded in Nashville, he had not yet enjoyed the household-name success brought by “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Perhaps fearing a memory lapse was coming, at one point Cash, who was having a hard time keeping a straight face anyway, tells Lightfoot, “Sing it, Pretty Boy!” Priceless.

It also should be noted that it was during a remote taping at Vanderbilt University that Cash first performed the song “Man in Black.”

I had always assumed that the comparatively short run of Cash’s show was caused by viewers and advertisers preferring to watch a TV show featuring a country musician who much less resembled Count Dracula. Specifically, that other Pretty Boy, Glen Campbell.

However, multiple sources attribute the cancellation of Cash’s show to the 1970-71 “Rural Purge” of network television, during which nearly all the rural-themed television shows were canceled, despite their overwhelming popularity. (Campbell’s show survived until 1972.)

The rationale was that rural-themed shows such as Green Acres, Mister Ed, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies were overwhelmingly popular, but primarily among elderly-trending demographic segments, while the younger viewers the advertisers craved were just tuning them all out. Hence, a bloodless revolution: All in the Family, Da; Hee-Haw, Nyet.

(To be sure, there were highly popular non-rural shows that fell under the axe during the Rural Purge, among them, The Andy Williams Show, The Lawrence Welk Show, and Wild Kingdom. Someone with TV-Land connections really should write a book!)

Automobile-auction superpower Barrett-Jackson will offer Johnny Cash’s 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow at no reserve in its Las Vegas Auction, September 25-27, 2014. Barrett-Jackson claims that the vehicle is original, and that it comes with complete documentation. Barrett-Jackson’s policy is to decline to provide estimates for no-reserve auctions.

However, as a matter of broadly-based averages, early-1970s Silver Shadows have a hard time breaking $30,000. An acquaintance of mine paid $16,000 for Sergio Franchi’s Rolls of similar vintage, in daily-driver condition. Whether a deep-pockets country-music fan, or perhaps some museum, wants to make some news with this auction result remains to be seen—literally, as one would expect this lot to be televised.

Photos courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


34 Comments on “The Shadow Of Johnny Cash...”

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    The car was on Pawn Stars last fall, the guy wanted $200,000, the shop didn’t buy it. It will be interesting to see what it actually goes for.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      Thanks for the data point.

      My rule of thumb in such affairs comes from American novelist Jim Harrison, of “Legends of the Fall” fame.

      Harrison once wrote “What was lovely to a man when he was 19 will be lovely to him forever.” So you have to locate that buyer who was 19 in 1970 and wanted to own a Silver Shadow and who now can afford to pay extra for a celebrity connection. But I don’t see $200,000 happening.

      For half of $200,000, you can get a new Mercedes S-Class that will drive circles around the Silver Barge, as well as being a far better bet in a big collision, and also having all the Mod Cons (Modern Conveniences, in 1960s London apartment-listing-speak).

      Nobody will buy Johnny Cash’s RR as daily transportation. So this will sell either as an impulse purchase by someone who really thinks Johnny Cash was hugely important, or by some museum or attraction that thinks it will be a draw.

      Not to equate Sergio Franchi’s career with Cash’s, but, given the risk with any Rolls (and also with any air-suspended Mercedes from that era) that some idiosyncratic system sourced from Citroen is about to grenade on you, I think that $16,000 was fair dinkum for the Franchi Shadow. That said, it was a medium brown and not long wheelbase and not divided.

      So even assuming that the Cash car is is better than daily-driver shape, I’d say that anything over $50,000 to $75,000 is Irrational Exuberance.

      As always, Truth Will Be the Daughter of Time.


      John Marks

      • 0 avatar
        I've got a Jaaaaag

        Found a recap on the net of the episode, it looks like the shop’s expert appraised it for $50,000

        The first guy brought in 1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. The car was bouht by ABC and given to Johnny Cash for his successful TV show.

        The car was black because Johnny Cash was the Man in Black.
        Cash’s drummer, W.S. Holland, was the person who vouched that the car belonged to Cash.

        The guy wanted $350,000. Time for an expert, Steven Ray Anastos of Red Hills Rods and Choppers. They got to drive the car, with Rick was the driver. The car had 31,000 miles on it. Steve said the car was worth about $50,000. The guy went down to $200,000 and there was no sale.

      • 0 avatar

        “For half of $200,000, you can get a new Mercedes S-Class that will drive circles around the Silver Barge, as well as being a far better bet in a big collision, and also having all the Mod Cons (Modern Conveniences, in 1960s London apartment-listing-speak). ”

        I really don’t think you get it.

        Those of us who love our old cars are not going by your priorities.

        My wife was considering what to do with the insurance money to replace her 560SL, I asked her what she thought of a Mustang. Her answer: “a Mustang would have to be a 69 Fastback, and I don’t have that much money” (love that girl).

        [Anyhow she found a great deal on an almost identical SL]

    • 0 avatar


      I think I found that seller’s Eldorado too:

  • avatar

    It’ll be interesting to see how this runs out .

    I’ve always loved the looks of these but I am also told they’re not good for actual use as Motorcars , a sad thing .


  • avatar

    I’m gonna predict $15,000 if they’re lucky (YMMV, void where prohibited by law, must be 18 to enter, millions will play only one will win). It is a Rolls Royce, it was ridden in by Johnny Cash (or driven I don’t see him having a chauffeur) but this was a car given to him not something he likely would have purchased for himself.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      Well, truth will be the daughter of time.

      The nice poster above provides some good data. At 31,000 miles, inaction is a bigger issue than wear, and, Rolls-Royce sourced its self-leveling rear suspension from Citroen, and that system runs at 1,900 psi and leaks if you don’t drive it and leaks if you do drive it. So when you buy a car like that you have to put $10,000 in the cookie jar for a complete suspension rebuild. And OEM tires are obscenely expensive.

      But I see that car going all day anywhere at $30,000 (assuming the hydropneumatic suspension works) and I don’t have a prob with $50,000 because of the “provenance.” That said, were it a 1970 Ford pickup truck that Cash had loved to drive and it had 100,000 miles on it, THEN you would be talking over $100,000.

      Funny, ain’t it?


      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        You mean Johnny’s Jeep don’t you? A 1970 f 150 isn’t much of a car even if Jesus drove for his carpentry gig.

      • 0 avatar

        Johnny in a Rolls Royce is a like Liberace owning a Chevy 210 Sedan. Completely out of character and collectors of celebrity memorabilia are people who likely want something that was significant to that individual. The biggest surprise is that Johnny didn’t take the car to a dealership and dump it the minute the show was cancelled.

        Big money car collectors want cars that were somehow either rare or significant to the brand. This car is neither. (Not arguing just expanding my points.)

        I like luxury cars (especially antique ones have always intrigued me) and I’d rather have the Gas Monkey Troll’s Choice – at least it is “interesting.”

        • 0 avatar

          As I was reading, I found it odd for the network to choose that car as a gift. An American TV network during a very patriotic time choosing a -very- British car for a very American musician.

          I would think a Fleetwood 75 to be much more approrpriate and in line with the “large car for Mr. Cash” idea.

  • avatar

    That duet with Lightfoot was wonderful, and especially fun to listen to after having seen Jersey Boys two days ago. I was fascinated to learn he had Joni Mitchell and Dylan on his show’s debut.

    The Rolls was definitely the least of this terrific story for me, although I did enjoy th eback and forth on what it might fetch, and hearing that the suspension was sourced from Citroen.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks



      PS: Only the rear suspension’s automatic leveling came from Citroen. And by the time Rolls licensed the system, its worst teething pains were long in the past. AFAIK, all Shadows were “Green Fluid” cars. Even so, the system demanded not only maintenance but cleanliness. IIRC, there were no washers, it was all metal-to-metal unions, and so the least piece of grit could start you down the path to a Failure Cascade.

      # # #

  • avatar

    I kinda like George Gobel. Maybe deadpan comedy is an acquired taste. Anyone else remember Jackie Vernon?

    • 0 avatar
      I've got a Jaaaaag

      Best George Gobel line I’ve heard, “Ever feel like the world is a tuxedo and you are a pair of brown shoes?”

    • 0 avatar

      Acts like Gobel, Hope et al have to be considered in light of the times. That older demographic tuning into TV variety shows still appreciated the kinder and gentler style of humor that those guys offered, and would be turned off by the likes of Pryor and latter-day Carlin.

  • avatar

    Derek and the Dominos only U.S. television appearance was on Cash’s show.

    Okay, so Duane Allman isn’t playing with Clapton here but after D&TD play It’s Too Late, She’s Gone, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins join the band for a nice version of Matchbox Blues.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    As a pop music consuming kid back then I used to watch both the Cash and Campbell shows with great interest since many of the artists crossed over to the AM Top 40 airwaves as well as looser formatted free-form FM. The Dylan/Cash duet was on Nashville Skyline. I wish CMT or one of those other “Country” cable outfits would run the 58 episodes of the Cash show instead of what passes as so-called modern country or as Tom Petty referred to it as ‘A bad rock band with a fiddle”.

  • avatar

    One of the more amusing episodes of Top Gear ended up with Clarkson parking a Shadow in the local swimming pool.

  • avatar

    The Johnny Cash car I would want is the `psycho-billy` Cadillac built for the song Òne Piece At A Time`.

    • 0 avatar

      But up there at the court house they didn’t laugh
      ‘Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
      And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds.

  • avatar

    The car itself namely rear axles, doesn’t need the hydraulic to prop her up. But the brake system do ran off the high pressure system. It has 2 accumulators sat in between the v8 banks.
    2 high pressure pump ran off the camshaft to feed the accumulator.
    The circuits were pretty convoluted, it may have triple system for the brakes, dual high pressure circuits for front and rear and a regular hydraulic pump as most cars have to augment a real pedal feel.
    Since the brake system is basically a hydraulic valve, when u step on the brake pedal u are opening the valve and feed the pressure the the wheel slave cylinders.
    So should the hydraulic system is working well the brake system will be compromised.
    The levelling is very much the least of your worry for operating the car. A simple test is to have the car idling and have 1 or 2 person sit the the rear seat. the rear door sensor make it to fill the hydraulic much faster when the door is opened. Or simply open the trunk and sat in the trunk, should the levelling works one can see the drop will be raised very quickly.
    Every so often we see these old shadows moving along with trunk lowered like a speed boat.

    They used to have levelling rams in the front axle too, but later on it got deleted. Maybe after 71.
    The older one has 6.25 litre, boosted up to 6.75 in 71.
    The partition glass model was imported into N america aka colonial market later on. Is mainly due to safety issues. So as the picnic table on the earlier models, 67 may have been the last yr and didn’t return until mid 80s.
    The brake/hudraulic system uses a RR363 fluid, is not brake fluids.
    later on they changed to mineral oil. And only the dealers can replace them, as it has a seal and wire for tamper proof.
    RR at one time considered the best car in the world.
    The Merc 600 was probably light years ahead of a Shadow. But somehow it never caught the commercial success a 600 deserved only ~2600 copies were made.

  • avatar

    If you sign a recording deal for less than a quarter mill’
    And your advance is a hundred-thousand dollar automobile
    I know the vehicle was probably beautiful (Yeah it’s tight)
    But did you ask your lawyer if it was recoupable?

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      Or, even worse, was the advance simply a loan?

      The Grateful Dead got clotheslined on that. They got huge advances but the album flopped and the record label called the advances back in. The Dead spent two years touring to rectify that little goof.

      Back in the day I would counsel artists to take a smaller advance in order for it to be a real (and taxable) paycheck that you never have to pay back.

      Problem is, record labels aren’t the only ones who want to play games.



  • avatar

    This was not the only Rolls in Johnnys life…he was a fan….google it. he bought them, he drove them, his wife drove them, he had lots of houses, a range rover, he liked being rich.

    As for this car…..BJ las vegas isn’t pawn stars….the right guy will be in the room and it will sell for $100-150k. IMHO

    • 0 avatar

      This. I think doubters will be surprised at what this will sell for. There is a deluge of recently printed undervalued dollars clogging up investment portfolios of the wealthy around the world all desperately seeking higher yields that a stoopid sales price is likely.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    The death of the variety show was caused in part by the Prime Time Access Rule in 1971-2 which restricted network programming in favor of local. The variety shows went because they were expensive to produce.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      Well, I did suggest that someone who knows that period intimately write a book about that major transition.

      Until that happens, no offense, I think we are the five blind men with the elephant. Yes, the FCC made the networks give back half an hour a night to the local stations. Hardly earth-shattering.

      TV “Panel Quiz Shows” were dirt-cheap to produce, but they went too. I do have a degree in American Civilization, and concentrated in Material Culture and Technology, so I’d love a fat research grant to compare production costs of variety shows versus the new youth-oriented sitcoms.

      I do know from anecdotal evidence from that era that there was at least a perception among unionized musicians and unionized technical personnel in the NYC area that the networks were happy to produce TV shows from Tennessee because again, the perception was was that even union labor was cheaper in Tennessee and non-union labor much cheaper.

      So, I will just have to drop more hints here and there that somebody has to write a book.


  • avatar

    First I’m a Rolls Royce owner (silver spur) and long time member of the Rolls Royce club of America. The expert appraisal was a car expert and not a Rolls person. $50,000 is a little optimistic even at a retail auto auction. For the most part Rolls Royce people are not impressed by celebrity ownership. So we’ll take the Cash ownership out of the equation. Rolls Royce built more shadows then any other model, so even today they are not rare. This era shadow’s typically sell for between $12,000 and $25,000, in the middle is typical. Add the long wheelbase and the rare divider option, you might get $30,000 to no more then $35,0000. At least these are the current prices paid bantered around the Rolls Royce club private forum. I doubt Johnny Cash would add much more to the value of a Shadow.

  • avatar

    So, does Cash = cash..?

    The sale was videoed and is on YouTube…

    Just in case this forum doesn’t allow external links, search for “Johnny Cash’s 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow – 2014 Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas”

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • gtemnykh: Good one on the Montero. Again, given current tastes, I figure selling the current gen IV from overseas...
  • Menar Fromarz: Great article! This one damn near nails the name of the website to a “T”. Too bad many...
  • Land Ark: I may not agree with Jack on a lot of things, and sometimes I know I’m going to be agitated by what...
  • rpn453: That’s some nice work, Jack. Keeping journalism alive.
  • PrincipalDan: As I age and mature residuals are starting to matter to me. After looking at today’s QOTD I did...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States