Volatile Attractions Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend

A Contract: Part Five

Johnny Cash and Saul Holiff in Ventura, California office

Despite this auspicious beginning, however, the years 1962-1968 proved to be difficult for Cash and everyone who worked with him.

In late 1961, Holiff was already beginning to discover that the future promised challenges as well as successes. When they were in Vancouver in late November and early December for a number of shows at the Cave Supper Club, Cash trashed all the chandeliers in the hotel where they were staying after a show one night, and Holiff had to cover the damages. It was an unsettling incident that foreshadowed many more to come. 

As he later recalled to his son Jonathan, Holiff was suddenly and completely embroiled in the professional and personal complications of Cash's life:

I got off a plane in 1961 at the almost-new Los Angeles airport, and had forgotten to take American money with me, was to be met by Johnny and wasn't (he was off on a drunken rampage somewhere in Texas) and had to take a taxi at midnight, go almost 100 miles north to Casitas Springs, wake up Cash's wife at 3 a.m. and ask her for American money because the cab driver refused Canadian. I operated with no car, lived in a motel for weeks, and had to reorganize an office where no filing or tax returns, or any other form of organization[,] had been done for two or three years. And in the midst of this, I had to come to the sickening realization that Johnny was manic-depressive, addicted to pep pills, and would have mood swings from being completely rational, lucid and likeable, to suddenly behaving like a complete madman. It meant becoming, almost immediately, a marriage counselor, an advisor to four young daughters, a psychiatrist, a pharmacist, a manager, an agent, an accountant and a conciliator (his parents) within a matter of weeks of entering this madhouse.

– Letter from Saul Holiff to Jonathan Holiff, 7 October 1995

Items in this collection are available for research, teaching, or private study under this Creative Commons license agreement. For all other uses, please see our About page to contact us.

< A Contract: Part Four Disillusionment and Discord (1962-1965) >