Johnny Cash’s Lost LP
Johnny Cash’s Lost LP
Most “new” albums released after a musician’s death aren’t really new at all. Instead they tend to be leftovers—the live tracks, B-sides, and outtakes that the artist didn’t see fit to release in his or her lifetime.
But the new Johnny Cash album, Out Among the Stars, is different. This isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel hodgepodge assembled by Cash’s heirs to keep the family coffers full. It’s an actual lost LP by the Man in Black—an entire disc that was supposed to come out back in the mid-1980s but was shelved by Cash’s record company before it could be completed.
For decades, these fascinating recordings languished in the Cash Family vault, unheard and unremembered. But now Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, has rescued them from obscurity, polished them up, and put them back together—just as he says his father and mother, June Carter Cash, would have wanted.
To find out more about the process, the music, and how Out Among the Stars got lost in the first place, we gave Cash a ring. He was gracious enough to tell us the behind-the-scenes story of his “endeavor of the heart.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about the moment that you discovered the recordings that make up Out Among the Stars.
My parents never threw anything away—tape after tape that they stored for nostalgia. But when they passed away, it became necessary to catalog everything, so what I did was ship all the audio recordings from Nashville to New York City, where they were transferred to digital. Then everything came back to me.
In that process, we discovered all these wondrous recordings. Some of them, we had no idea they existed—like the first Bootleg Series that we put out a few years ago, The Personal File. Just my dad and his guitar, a double record. A beautiful, beautiful recording. Nobody knew that existed—or at least they had forgotten.
And Out Among the Stars was one of those recordings.
There’s other material even now—material that we’re trying to consider whether it’s right for release. But this record in particular really shined. It stood out to me as a unique body of work. There were songs that my father had recorded that had never been heard before. This wasn’t, like, B-sides and outtakes. It was a full record. A lost record. So I was really excited.
The sessions for Out Among the Stars started in 1981 and recommenced in 1984. Your dad was working with the legendary countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill. Set the scene for us: what was going on in Johnny Cash’s career at that point? What did he want to accomplish with this album?
My dad was working hard on the road. He was traveling a lot. He was writing a novel—a book called Man in White about the conversion of the Apostle Paul. And in the early 1980s—1981, 1982, 1983—he has been suffering from a relapse of his drug addiction. In late ‘83, he went to rehab. When he came out of rehab he felt like he was bright. He was a beginner. He was in love with his life—his family, his home life, was really good. And he was my best friend. So in rediscovering this record it was like I got to be with my best friend again from that time period. It was a real blessing for me. I remember the man who he was then. He was strong and focused in 1984—and that’s when ten of these 12 songs were done.