Even Johnny had to get his moose

Book ex­plores joy and pain of Saul Ho­liff, Johnny Cash’s Cana­dian man­ager — in­clud­ing N.L. moose hunts

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - BY DIRK MEISSNER

When an im­paired Johnny Cash crashed his girl­friend June Carter’s Cadil­lac into a tele­phone pole in Nashville 52 years ago, Cana­dian Saul Ho­liff man­aged to keep the ac­ci­dent quiet.

It was Ho­liff who or­ga­nized a suc­cess­ful tour of Eastern Canada — in­clud­ing a moose hunt in New­found­land — when the star singer’s ad­dic­tion to pills and rep­u­ta­tion for miss­ing con­certs led to a de­cline in U.S. book­ings.

After Cash was found un­con­scious in the back of a camper in a Toronto park­ing lot with no sign of a pulse, Ho­liff de­cided the show must go on and drove the star across the bor­der for a show in Rochester, N.Y. Hours later, a mirac­u­lously re­vived Cash greeted Ho­liff and of­fered him a fresh cup of cof­fee.

In her new book “The Man Who Car­ried Cash,” Julie Chad­wick ex­plores the com­plex per­sonal and busi­ness re­la­tion­ship be­tween Cash and Ho­liff, his London, Ont.-born man­ager.

Chad­wick, who lives in Nanaimo, B.C., said she was a cub re­porter at her home­town news­pa­per when she re­ceived an email marked “con­fi­den­tial.”

The mes­sage was from Jonathan Ho­liff, whose late fa­ther had worked for Cash for 13 years be­fore quit­ting in 1973 at the height of the su­per­star’s ca­reer.

Jonathan Ho­liff, who pro­duced the doc­u­men­tary “My Fa­ther and the Man in Black,” of­fered Chad­wick full ac­cess to what amounted to a dig­i­tized ver­sion of a stor­age locker full of Cash mem­o­ra­bilia col­lected by his fa­ther. It in­cluded pho­tos, di­aries and recorded tele­phone calls be­tween Ho­liff and Cash.

Chad­wick said the project re­sulted in a deeper un­der­stand­ing of Ho­liff, a Cana­dian mu­sic icon who was hon­oured as in­dus­try man of the year at the 1970 Juno Awards. Ho­liff brought Cash to Canada for nu­mer­ous tours, but he also brought Bill Ha­ley and His Comets, the Everly Broth­ers, and Sam Cooke to Canada.

“A lot of peo­ple know about Johnny be­ing kind of crazy in the 1960s, do­ing a lot of drugs and crash­ing cars,” said Chad­wick. “We get a new per­spec­tive on things from the point of view of what it might be like to man­age a per­son like that.”

Chad­wick said Ho­liff left be­hind a blow-by-blow writ­ten ac­count of the 1965 Cadil­lac crash in Nashville, in­clud­ing his ef­forts to lo­cate Cash after he fled the ac­ci­dent scene. A 10-day tour was can­celled and Ho­liff had to keep the in­ci­dent from the pub­lic and Carter’s then-hus­band.

“You get a whole new per­spec­tive on the ma­te­rial Saul left be­hind,” she said. “I was lucky in that he just kept un­fold­ing and un­fold­ing. There are so many sides to him.”

Chad­wick said Ho­liff was there for the good and bad times with Cash, but never felt com­pletely in­cluded or re­spected for the ef­forts he made to sup­port the singer or clean up after him.

“He al­ways felt like an out­sider and as the ten­sion be­tween the two of them ramped up in the later years you see a lot of that in his au­dio di­aries where he is just talk­ing about kind of feel­ing re­jected a lot of the time,” she said.

Chad­wick said an au­dio record­ing from 1972 cap­tures the volatile and af­fec­tion­ate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Cash and Ho­liff as they dis­cuss the singer’s plans to shoot a movie in Is­rael that traces the path of Je­sus Christ in the Holy Land.

Cash re­proaches Ho­liff for call­ing the movie, “A Gospel Road,” too Chris­tian. But Ho­liff replies he was point­ing out that many peo­ple will not ac­cept the film’s de­vout mes­sage.

“That’s what is known as try­ing to be hon­est,” Ho­liff said. “I’m one of the few peo­ple that try to say to you ex­actly what they think with­out mean­ing to be harm­ful. I find a lot of peo­ple tell you ex­actly what you want to hear.”

Cash agrees: “Yes, I know that. I don’t need that ei­ther.”

SAUL HO­LIFF COL­LEC­TION VIA CP

Johnny Cash and Saul Ho­liff at the Johnny Cash In­cor­po­rated of­fice in Ven­tura, Calif., in the fall of 1961, in this handout photo. In her new book “The Man Who Car­ried Cash,” Julie Chad­wick ex­plores the com­plex per­sonal and busi­ness re­la­tion­ship be­tween Johnny Cash and Saul Ho­liff, his London, Ont.-born man­ager.

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