Johnny Cash’s Vocal Coach Sent Him Home After Three Lessons: “Don’t Let Anyone Change The Way You Sing”

Johnny Cash country music
GAB Archive/ Getty Images

It’s insane to think that a voice can be so impactful that it could never again be replicated.

But in short summary, that was exactly the influence of Johnny Cash.

It’s a simple truth, but the main ingredient to the Man In Black’s success was how he sang, which led him to an insanely successful, Hall of Fame career consisting of Grammys, Lifetime Achievement Awards, and musical acknowledgments that marked him a legend in the industry.

The story behind his unique, sauntering voice is one that stands out to me, in part due to his vocal development and the factors that attributed to it.

Johnny was born in the 1930s, following the historical collapse of Wall Street in 1929. The decade of his birth was one of the poorest and most tragic of our nation’s history and families across the nation felt the wrath of post-World War crisis.

In the midst of it all, Johnny’s family moved to small town Arkansas where his father could gain employment sharecropping through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. And on those acres of farmland is where the voice of Johnny Cash developed.

Music was a staple for families, especially impoverished ones who did hours of field work. It was a pass-time, and even in the evenings when all the work was done, families and neighbors would gather on small porches to sing and play instruments.

This love of music was often reinforced through gospel music in church, and for Johnny Cash all these factors were at play.

According to biography research, Johnny began writing poems and songs as early as 12-years-old, honing in on his love for music and lyrics at an early age, which undeniably gave his talent more decades to develop. But what Johnny came by naturally was the unequaled lilt of his voice.

His mother, Carrie, sensed young Johnny’s vocal ability and scraped together enough cash to send him to singing lessons, but here’s where the story gets good…

After only three lessons with his new vocal coach, his teacher found his voice so electrifyingly special that she told him to stop taking lessons and never pursue further vocal instruction.

She was very concerned that vocal training would cause Johnny to deviate from his natural voice patterns, which is something she was wise enough not to interfere with.

When Johnny recalled the story he said she deterred him from future professional voice training by telling him:

“Don’t ever take voice lessons again. Don’t let me or anyone change the way you sing.”

Insanely enough, this vocal instructor’s wisdom was the starting point for his legendary career and all the archived talent we gained from it.

If not for her involvement (or lack thereof) and guidance, we may have never even experienced the voice of Johnny Cash.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock