Invisible, Highwaymen and Class of ’55

This section includes the years from 1980 until 1986.

Quick notes:
– Career slowing down
– Country Music Hall of Fame
– The Highwaymen
– Addicted again
– Double buypass
– Near death experience
– Invisible
– Leaving Columbia
– Class of ’55
– Man in White

Johnny Cash and Highwaymen poster

Music career slowing down

His albums stilled sold some copies throughout the ‘70s, but in the early ‘80s the sales went down.

But Cash had a personal triumph even though his albums didn’t hit the charts quite as hard: ‘Cause it was in 1980 that John R. Cash got inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame as the youngest living artist ever. (See Awards)

The Highwaymen

Althoug his albums weren’t a success he still toured with sold-out concerts. And in the mid ‘80s he started touring with three other great country musicians; Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. The group called themselves “The Highwaymen”, and released three hit albums; “Highwayman”, “Highwayman 2” and “The Road Goes on Forever”.

The most famous song from this group had to be “Highwayman”, written by Jimmy Webb.

A new addiction

After being kicked and critically wounded by an ostrige at his farm, Cash was admitted to a hospital. He suffered from serious abdominal pain, and recieved painkillers as a part of the treatment. These pills were addictive, and Cash was once again adiccted to drugs.

But it didn’t last long. In 1986 he recovered at the Betty Ford Clinic. While recovering here, he became friends with Ozzy Osbourne, who happened to be there for the same reason as Cash.

Near death experience

In 1988, Cash visited his friend Waylon Jennings in the hospital. Jennings was recovering from a heart attack. Waylon suggested to Cash that he had himself checked, and the doctors recommended preventive heart surgery. Cash underwent a double buypass surgery in the same hospital, and they both recovered.

Cash refused to take painkillers, although they were prescribed to him. He wouldn’t go through another dependency.

But it was under the surgery that Cash claims to have had a near death experience. He said he had visions of heaven that were so beautiful that he was angry when he woke up.


Cash’s career hit an all-time low in the ‘80s, and his general relationship with the Nashville establishment was falling apart. After almost 30 years with Columbia records, Cash realized that they were growing in a different direction than Cash. He felt that he wasn’t believed in and that they were not properly marketing him. Cash said himself in his autobiography that he felt “invisible” during that time.

Going seperate ways

Cash wrote a self-parody, intentially awful song called “Chicken in Black” in 1984. The song was about Cash’s brain being transplanted into a chicken. Althoug this song actually turned out to be quite a large commercial success, Cash was hoping to kill the relationship with Columbia.

And it wasn’t long after “Chicken in Black” that Cash and Columbia parted ways. In 1986 the 28 year long relationship was ended, but it didn’t end as well as it started.

Class of ‘55

After leaving Columbia Records, Cash returned to Sun Studios in Memphis to record the album “Class of ’55”. He would on this album be accompanied by Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. This was kind of like the “Million Dollar Quartet” from ’56, but Elvis Presley was replaced by Orbison. The new quartet wrote a song together called “We Remember the King”, as a tribute for their late friend.

Man in White

In 1986 John wrote his only novel called “Man in White”. The book is a fictional version of the life of Saul. John illustrates Saul’s life from oppostion to christianity to his conversion into the apostle Paul and also his missionary efforts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s