On July 7, 1956, Johnny Cash took his first steps onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. During this time, the Opry was still located in Downtown Nashville at the iconic Ryman Auditorium.
The radio show had been something that Cash loved as a child growing up in Arkansas, and he dreamed of stepping foot on the stage when he chose to pursue a music career.
At 24 years old, his dream came true. While collecting audio during this time was not as accessible as it is today, this audio of Cash performing “I Walk The Line” lets you hear the booming voice that captured listeners that night from the Opry.
Introduced by singer and host, Carl Smith, he says:
“How’d you folks like to enjoy another song by Johnny Cash? Johnny what do you got for us?”
Of course, he would probably come to regret introducing Johnny that night, but more on that in a minute…
“Carl, we’d like to do one, it’s on one side of our latest Sun release. And we’d like to thank all the wonderful folks for being so good to us about it, making it one of the country’s top sellers.
It’s called ‘I Walk The Line.'”
His deep twang and authentic lyrics from this performance and other tracks that were sky-rocketing Cash into the limelight of country music solidified that he was meant for greatness.
That night at the Opry, he captured the hearts of the people in the seats and his future wife, June Carter.
Johnny and June met for the first time that night in 1956, as June was also performing on the Grand Ole Opry that night. Carl Smith, introduced June Carter, who was HIS WIFE at the time, to Cash backstage.
According to Rolling Stone, June was very familiar with Cash already, as she had been listening to his music while on tour with Elvis, Johnny hit her with this line right off the bat:
“I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
Smooth, John. Real smooth.
June reportedly responded with:
“I feel like I know you already.”
I mean, you couldn’t write a movie script better than that. The sparks were flying from the get-go.
Here’s a photo of the two from that day:
June Carter and Carl Smith would divorce later that same year, and June would remarry the following year in 1957. It wouldn’t be until 1968 that Johnny would marry June, following Johnny’s split from Vivian Liberto.
And the rest as they say… is history.
In 2000, June Carter Cash wrote notes on the box set titled Love, God, Murder, reflecting on the first night she met Johnny.
“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.”
The Opry has served as a monumental night for nearly every artist that steps foot on that stage, but it was monumental in more ways than one that night for Johnny Cash.
He captured the ears of listeners… and the heart of June Carter.