Although Cash was influenced by music, particularly gospel, at a young age, beginning to sing and write songs at the age of 12, he decided to enlist in the Air Force after high school on this date back in 1950, where he eventually worked his way up as a Morse code operator to decode intercepting Soviet Union radio transmissions.
While serving in Landsberg, Germany, he put together his first ever band, “The Landsberg Barbarians.” On July 3rd, 1954, he was honorably discharged from the Air Force.
Once he returned home to his wife at the time, Vivian, he knew that pursuing a full-time career in music was his next move after he realized selling appliances wasn’t the career for him.
Sure enough, after trying to convince Sam Phillips to sign him to Sun Records, he eventually made the move, and the rest was history.
So, let’s fast forward to 1956.
On this date back in ’56, Cash made a huge leap in his career by playing the Grand Ole Opry for the first time.
At the time, Cash and the Tennessee Two were coming off the release of “I Walk the Line,” which had yet to go number one and hadn’t seen a ton of success on the charts to that point.
Alongside his lead guitarist Luther Perkins, and bassist Marshall Grant all decked out in black, the trio kickstarted a three song set.
However, Cash didn’t just make Opry history that night…
According to Rolling Stone,a singer named June Carter was trying to tune her guitar and hurry on stage for her set when Cash introduced himself, but Carter already knew who the Man In Black was, as she was introduced to his music while touring with Elvis Presley.
And Cash was familiar with her too.
Nevertheless, sparks still flew.
Cash told Carter:
“I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
And she responded:
“I feel like I know you already.”
She recalled the night in the liner notes of Cash’s 2000 box set, Love, God, Murder:
“I can’t remember anything else we talked about, except his eyes. Those black eyes that shone like agates… He had a command of his performance that I had never before. Just a guitar and a bass and a gentle kind of presence that made not only me, but whole audiences become his followers.”
Sure enough, June Carter divorced that year, and in 1966, Cash divorced Liberto.
Carter and Cash married in 1968, and the rest was history.
And while we can’t seem to find any footage from that night, there is some footage from another Opry performance a month or so later: