The late Johnny Cash is a once in a generation talent that was spotted and championed at a young age after he started performing at his local church. Singing with the congregation was his only real performances as a child.
One show from his childhood stood out the most to him, which was when he got invited aged 17 to perform at his high-school graduation. In some rarely heard audio, Cash revisits the track that held so much sentimentality.
Singing provided Cash with an escape and a way to convey his emotions on topics that he wasn’t comfortable speaking about in normal conversation. Music provided him with a platform. His childhood was turned upside down following his brother’s death when he was just 12-years-old, Cash would then take to the stage just a matter of months later and instantly catching the bug for it.
His time at school was a very pleasant experience with Cash taking to education like a duck to water, The Man in Black was even elected class vice president in his senior year. He also volunteered as an officer in the school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America.
His teachers loved him and Cash was seen as the perfect student, a kid who was popular with his fellow classmates and one who also respected his teachers—something which gained him good grace with those in charge. A year before he graduated himself, Cash, aged 17 who was a junior in high school, was invited to perform at the ceremony to please the students and attendees at the 1949 ceremony with a performance of the song ‘Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes’.
The track in question was originally a poem written in 1616 by English poet Ben Jonson and the lyrics have been structured in an array of different ways over the past 100-years since recordings began.
Unfortunately, no audio exists of Cash performing it in 1949. However, after his death, there was a demo that was unearthed from 1973 which featured on the 2006 compilation Personal File, which consisted of 49 unreleased tracks chosen from tapes discovered at the House of Cash studios.
“It was such a strong memory for me,” Cash remembered of the performance from his teenage years, “I can see me when I was 17 years old standing… at the senior-class graduation. I never forgot that because it was one of my first public singing occasions, and I have sung this song, mainly to myself, ever since I was 17 years old because of those memories.”
Listen to the jaw dropping audio, below.