Saturday, July 20, 2019

Country's money men: Johnny Cash, Johnny Dollar, Johnny Paycheck, etc

Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart the week of June 4, 1966, included hits by Johnny Cash, Johnny Dollar, and Johnny Paycheck.
Billboard's Hot Country Singles – June 4, 1966

Johnny Cash's hit was "The One on the Right Is on the Left," Dollar's was "Stop the Start (Of Tears in My Heart)," and Paycheck's was "The Lovin' Machine."

This string of monetized names seems contrived, but in fact, Cash and Dollar were the singers' real surnames. 

Paycheck, on the other hand, was born Donald Eugene Lytle. He was only one of several artists over the years who adopted or capitalized on money-related names that echoed Cash's. Some of these artists parodied Cash's name while others merely used names that were in the same vein.

Johnny Cash parodies 

Mac Wiseman – "Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride"

Cash's name was occasionally a source of humor, as in Mac Wiseman's novelty song "Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride," which was a Top 40 country hit in 1969-70.

Johnny Credit – "Hello, I'm Johnny Credit"

An artist whose name parodied Johnny Cash's was Johnny Credit, who released one single, "Hello, I'm Johnny Credit." Credit's real name was Johnny McCollum, and the single was a noncharting novelty that appeared on Plantation Records in 1971. The song title is a reference to Cash's 1970 Columbia album Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.

The Great Pretender with the Tennessee Two and a Half – "All Over Again, Again"

Cash's distinctive vocal style; the minimalist guitar style of his guitarist, Luther Perkins; and his band's name, The Tennessee Three, were parodied too. Mitchell Torok recorded an early one, "All Over Again, Again," under the name The Great Pretender with the Tennessee Two and a Half for Columbia Records in 1959. The song title referred to Cash's 1958 single "All Over Again." (The B-side, "You Can't Get There From Here," was credited to only The Great Pretender and is not a Johnny Cash parody but does pertain to money.)

John C. Reilly – "Walk Hard"

The title song from the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007), performed by John C. Reilly, was conceived as a Johnny Cash parody as well. Reilly's character isn't based on Johnny Cash—it's a pastiche of Cash, Elvis, Brian Wilson, and other icons of popular music—but this song was meant to sound like Cash. As for the name Dewey Cox, it might be a riff on Dick Trickle, but who can say?

Phil Ochs – "How High's the Watergate, Mama"

Too many of Cash's songs have been parodied for me to list them all here, but here's Phil Ochs' topical "How High's the Watergate, Mama," a parody of Cash's "Three Feet High and Rising."

The lyrics even mention Cash:
In the Swiss bank the money's stashed
18 minutes of tapes were slashed 
They've even taken in Johnny Cash

Other money men

Norville Dollar

Another money man who was active in country music in the 1960s was Norville Dollar, who recorded for Starday and Nugget Records. As with Johnny Dollar, Dollar seems to be Norville's real name. His sound was more similar to Johnny Dollar than to Johnny Cash.

Eddie Money

You could add Eddie Money (real name Edward Mahoney) to the list. He didn't begin recording until the 1970s and isn't a country artist, although in 2008 it was widely reported that he was going to release a country album that apparently never came to pass.

Jonny Dollar

England's Jonny Dollar (real name: Jonathan Peter Sharp) was a latter-day trip-hop producer and songwriter who also adopted a money name.

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