I took the Hunter/Stockton Coker out for an urban
ride tonight, after shaving another 5mm from the
seatpost. The height is now perfect for the 140mm
cranks, though I’m still adjusting my stroke on
the uphill climbs.
I rode around Music Square and noted a memorial
service in passing, presumably for Johnny Cash,
the artist who transcended generations and genres
and passed away today at age 71. As I rode along,
I could hear cars blaring out Cash’s more popular
tunes: “A Boy Named Sue”, “I Walk the Line”, and
“Folsom Prison Blues”.
I was riding through the Nashville streets
in a reflective, though not somber, mood and
started thinking about Johnny Cash and his
life. He has seemed such a permanent fixture
in Nashville, a statesman for the disenfranchised,
and despite his ill health, I took his presence
I never met Johnny Cash, though I knew scores
of people who knew him. We passed by his house
in Hendersonville Sunday mornings on the way
to church. One of the first songs I learned
to play on the guitar was “I Walk the Line”.
I stopped by a bar and ordered a beer, wondering
if they’d be playing any of the his tunes. No
such luck. I left and rode around Vanderbilt
University while a football game was in progress.
I continued on around Centennial Park, circling
the Parthenon. A runner passed me at a fast
pace and I struggled to keep up.
Maybe twenty years ago, I gave my uncle Ray an
album of Bruce Springsteen songs covered by
Johnny Cash. I think it was called “Johnny 99”.
As I rounded a corner, a man’s dog jumped out
to chase me. Surprisingly, the dog retreated
at his master’s command. “He’s not used to
people like you.” the gentleman explained.
“Not many are.” I replied.
Back in 1988 Frank Zappa went on his last abortive tour
with his band. Among the three live albums produced
from that tour was “The Best Band You Never Heard
In Your Life”. Frank met Johnny at the hotel and invited
him to sing “Ring of Fire” at one of his shows.
Unfortunately, his wife got sick, so Johnny didn’t
show up, but after checking with the audience Zappa’s
band played a wickedly funny version of “Ring of Fire”.
If I’d ever had the occasion to meet Johnny Cash, I
would have asked him about his impression of Frank
Zappa. Two iconoclasts from opposite ends of the