The Shadow Of Johnny Cash

John Marks
by John Marks
the shadow of johnny cash

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 34 comments
  • Zudnic Zudnic on Sep 27, 2014

    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.

  • N41L5 N41L5 on Sep 30, 2014

    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"

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...