The Holiff Family

In the days that he managed Cash, much of Holiff's emotional turmoil stemmed from the difficulty of trying to balance his family life back in London at the same time that he was contending with the turbulent events of Cash's life. For the first couple of years he was Cash's manager, Holiff lived in Los Angeles, and even when he moved back to Canada, he traveled almost constantly. For thirteen years--during which he met and married his wife, Barbara, and had two sons, Jonathan and Joshua--he was largely absent from home. The news release announcing his resignation even stated, "Holiff's reasons for the severance are based mainly on the fact that he has a very young family that, due to prolonged absences from home owing to business and travel obligations, he has seldom had the opportunity to see during their formative years." 

According to Holiff's audio diaries, it was a source of great regret for him. 


Saul Holiff met Barbara Robinson in 1960, when she was working as a secretary at the London Free Press newspaper. They started dating just as Holiff was becoming more active as a promoter, the same year that he founded Volatile Attractions and booked a second tour for Cash. When Holiff moved to Los Angeles in late 1961, the two maintained a long-distance relationship, and Barbara was instrumental in handling his personal and business affairs in London. In his absence, she frequently visited Holiff's mother; she also signed contracts and collected commissions for shows that he was not able to attend and helped design and order publicity materials. In 1964, Holiff moved back to London to be with Barbara in anticipation of their wedding that September.



Cash and June Carter, who were on tour, sent them notes of congratulations from a hotel in Sault Ste. Marie. Carter's note reads,

     "Barbara and Saul -

     Being married and being happy is the greatest gift that God has to offer. May you always be together and grow in love and understanding -

     Happiness to you both.

                     Love,

                     June -



Written on the same Windsor Hotel stationary, Cash's note reads,

     "Barbara & Saul

      May all your roads be downhill - and the wind at your back. May the Lord hold you in the hollow of his hand.

     May every live long day 

     Be lived long every day

                        John 

(A draft of a song or poem accompanies Cash's note in the archives, but it is unclear if it was sent at the same time.)

Holiff's balancing act was particularly difficult in 1965, as Cash's worsening addiction led him to chronically miss shows and his legal troubles began. Just a few short weeks before Cash was implicated in the Los Padres National Forest fire, Holiff's son Jonathan was born. This meant that as Holiff and his wife welcomed their first child, Holiff was preoccupied with this problem, then with Cash's arrest in El Paso, show cancellations, targeting by white supremacists, divorce, and overdose, all just before the birth of their second child, Joshua, on 29 June 1966. 


In an audio recording from 1998, Holiff explicitly connects the stress of his career with his difficulty engaging as a parent. He recalls that he had been traveling internationally before the births of both his sons and was "suffering jet fatigue almost at all times," on top of which he was dealing with episodes such as the incident in 1966 when Cash missed the show at the Olympia in Paris (that Holiff had gone to such pains to book). When he discovered that Cash had missed the show because he took off with Bob Dylan, Holiff returned to Ontario in anger, but found himself in a bind regarding his professional future and personal commitments: 

"A month later, with no prospects, and the sense that our relationship with Johnny was over [...] I was the father of two small babies, a mortgage, and no prospects. I wasn't in any condition to enjoy parenthood at that time. And on top of that I was never prepared to be a parent. [...] I was most of the time so tired, and so concerned about where and what lay ahead, that I just was not equipped to handle any demands." 

Listen to Saul Holiff discuss parenthood in a personal audio recording made in response to questions from Steve Paikin, 1998:

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