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Johnny Cash & Bandmates Once Released 500 Baby Chickens in a Hotel

Johnny Cash & Bandmates Once Released 500 Baby Chickens in a Hotel

That had to be fun to clean up… Of all the wild stories we’ve heard about the legendary country icon Johnny Cash, this one tops the list of “most outlandish” stunts he ever pulled.

In 1954, after serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, Johnny Cash was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant and returned to Texas. He married his first wife Vivian in San Antonio, and not long after, they moved to Memphis, Tennessee so he could kickstart his music career. Cash eventually formed a band with Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins named the Tennessee Three, and they toured the country trying to make a name for themselves.

It didn’t take long before Cash had radio hits like “I Walk the Line,” which went #1 in 1956, and the rest, as they say, is history. Despite his burgeoning career, Cash and his band still had their share of fun on the road. According to Rolling Stone, the Man in Black, Grant, and Perkins loved to “flush lit cherry bombs down hotel toilets and toss television sets out of hotel windows” as a form of entertainment.

One of the wildest road stories came when the band was in Omaha, Nebraska. As reported by Rolling Stone, they decided to purchase 500 baby chickens at a local hatchery and let them loose on the five different floors of their hotel. Not only does that sound expensive, but it had to be an incredible annoyance for all the guests and staff there too.

Indulging in drugs and alcohol likely played a part in this debauchery, but I would love to hear from someone who witnessed it. Imagine 500 baby chicks wandering around a hotel! This wild behavior just added to Cash’s “outlaw” reputation.

Years later, in 1984, Johnny Cash released a song titled “The Chicken In Black,” which, despite its name, had nothing to do with his hotel stunt. Interestingly, Johnny came to hate the song, and he later called it “intentionally atrocious.”

A couple of weeks ago, the Johnny Cash estate released a new album from the Man in Black called Songwriter. This collection of songs, recorded in 1993 but never released, was solely written by Cash.

On July 15th, 1986, Cash was dropped from his label home of 26 years, Columbia Records, where he essentially became the legend we know today. He signed with Mercury and stayed with them from ’86 until 1991 when they parted ways. For a couple of years in the early ’90s, Cash was actually without a label.

Eventually, he signed to Rick Rubin’s label, American. But during those couple of years as an independent artist, Cash recorded quite a few demos of songs he wrote entirely by himself at Nashville’s LSI Studios. When he signed with Rubin, those tunes took a backseat and never saw the light of day.

Recently, Cash’s son John Carter Cash rediscovered these stripped-back tapes. The demos featured essentially just Cash singing with an acoustic guitar. John wanted to finish them and share them with Johnny’s fans. John Carter Cash co-produced the finished album with Cash’s longtime engineer, David “Fergie” Ferguson. They stripped the demos back to just his father’s vocals, re-recording the songs with a very talented group of musicians including Marty Stuart, Dan Auerbach, Vince Gill, and more.

All the songs are incredible, featuring the kind of music we’ve all come to know and love from Johnny Cash, known for his gruff vocal delivery and meaningful lyrics. The album includes love songs, humorous tunes, and even two tracks featuring his friend and fellow Highwaymen member Waylon Jennings on background vocals on “I Love You Tonite” and “Like a Soldier.”

It’s surreal to hear this capsule of music from the ’90s, which feels as timeless now as it did then. Every song on Songwriter truly takes you back in time, and you’ll definitely want to stay and listen.

The legend lives on, as legends never really die. Johnny Cash remains as great as ever on Songwriter.

Here are a few of my early favorites from the album:

“I Love You Tonite”

“She Sang ‘Sweet Baby James'”

“Poor Valley Girl”

“Like A Soldier”

Songwriter Tracklist:
1. Hello Out There
2. Spotlight (feat. Dan Auerbach)
3. Drive On
4. I Love You Tonite (feat. Waylon Jennings)
5. Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?
6. Well Alright
7. She Sang ‘Sweet Baby James’
8. Poor Valley Girl (feat. Vince Gill)
9. Soldier Boy
10. Sing It Pretty Sue
11. Like a Soldier (feat. Waylon Jennings)

Source: Rolling Stone