Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

End of Day: 10 Years Without the Man in Black

Ten years ago today the world lost a great man: singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, fondly known as "The Man in Black".  My dad, Fr. Peter Gillquist, was the ghostwriter for Cash's autobiography, which bears Cash's nickname.

Man in Black - published by Zondervan in1975

I’ll never forget the road trip our family made to Nashville, Tennessee, back in the 1970's when my dad was working with Johnny (he didn't want any of us to call him "Mr. Cash") on the book. We drove up to his office, the "House of Cash", in Hendersonville, and Dad parked the car. Dad got out, giving the six of us siblings explicit instructions to “stay in the car, kids”.

The "House of Cash" as I remember it - info
(photo source here)

But suddenly Johnny Cash was coming out the front door, walking right toward the car - tall, smiling, and dressed completely in black (of course).  Much to my father’s chagrin, my brother and I opened the back doors of the car and immediately hopped out, right at Dad’s heels. I guess neither of us wanted the other one to be the first of us kids to shake Johnny Cash’s hand!

Later, we drove over to the Cash's beautiful lakeside home (which has since unfortunately burned down) to quickly be introduced to June and John Carter.

Cash in front of their home, 1969 - THE TENNESSEAN/AP

The inside of their home looked like a beautiful log cabin.  June Carter came downstairs to meet us, her hair wrapped in a bath towel.  She'd just gotten out of the shower! (My mom later said she wished she could be that comfortable with guests!)

Today I happened to find this blog by Andreas Koutsoudis, with an article posted about Johnny Cash's faith, titled "Inside the Complicated Faith of Johnny Cash", by Dave Urbanski (originally written for Relevant Magazine, February 26, 2013).

Andreas also posted several good YouTube links to some great Johnny Cash songs, and also mentioned my Dad's involvement with the Man in Black book.

For the record, Dad was not a fan of the movie, Walk the Line, because it left out so much of Johnny and June Carter's strong Christian faith.  If you can find it, read the book Man in Black, told in Johnny's own words!!  A great read, for teens and up.

This is a photo that my dad had of Johnny Cash.
I wonder if he's singing "Man in Black"...
"Man in Black" by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.


  1. I love Johnny Cash. I cried when he died. I never got to meet him (jealous!!!), but I did see him and June play a free concert at the grand opening of an outlet mall in Newton, KS. It was 1996, this time of year actually. It was amazing.

    1. I love that story, Danzel!!! Can you imagine anyone else of their notoriety doing that today?? Well - maybe in the south or midwest, but not likely here in California. I miss that culture!

    2. At the time, Johnny Western - the man who wrote and sang "The Ballad of Palladin" from Have Gun, Will Travel - was a DJ at my favorite country station. He used to tour with Johnny's band. In fact, he opened the concert, so he may have had something to do with it. But, yes, it was amazing of the Cashes to play a free show in such a location. This was right after the second American Recordings CD came out, so he was already starting to experience something of a career resurgence.

  2. WOW! That is pretty darn amazing! What a great story, and how awesome that your father got to help him with this book! I would have totally jumped out of the car too :D
    I cant believe its been 10 years since he passed away. It doesnt seem like its been that long...