The Rupture: Part Three

As Hilburn notes, "no one likely had a more stormy relationship with Cash than Saul Holiff" (298), and things came to a head over the next year. Holiff negotiated deals for Cash to record commercials for American Oil and to play a series of shows at the Hilton in Las Vegas--the first time Cash had played there in years, with lucrative earnings--but they continued to grow more estranged. In 1972, as he was driving to the airport to fly to Europe for a Cash show, Holiff recorded an audio diary in which he describes his sense of their growing animosity, and he relates it explicitly to the tension between Cash's religious beliefs and his own religious skepticism. Expressing his frustration at having these religious ideas imposed upon him, he predicts the impending termination of his relationship with Cash: "My situation with Johnny is moving into a critical period. . . . I know that my tolerance level is at an all-time low and that it's inevitable that the rupture is on the horizon."

Listen to a clip from Saul Holiff's audio diary, 1972:

That rupture came in July 1973, when Cash was playing at the Sahara Tahoe in Nevada. According to Julie Chadwick, June brought up his absences from the Billy Graham Crusades (Cash and June both performed at them) and implied that Holiff was only interested in money, to which he responded that he found her comments anti-Semitic (Chadwick 325). 

The incident apparently served as the catalyst he had been waiting for to make the final break with the Cashes (in the archives, there is a note titled "Factors That Influenced My Decision to Leave Johnny Cash," with "Decline in Cash Career" highlighted) and Cash accepted his official resignation in a letter that fall.

The news release announcing Holiff's resignation stated that "Holiff and Cash are parting on completely amicable terms after having shared, over the years, many ups and downs, and ultimately much good fortune together."

An article in the London Free Press from 5 November 1973, reporting on a show at the London Gardens, notes that "[n]ear the end of the night Cash paid tribute to his long-time manager, Saul Holiff of London, whom he called a 'great family man and one of the wisest men I know. We've grown together for 12 years and now Saul plans to turn his back on some of the future wealth we may have in order to spend more time with his family in London.[']" The article concludes by observing that "Cash presented Holiff with what looked to be two bottles of wine." The picture of Holiff and the Cashes on stage (right), with Holiff holding two bottles of wine, is likely from this concert at the London Gardens. 

When Cash returned to the Gardens in 1978, another article in the London Free Press remarked that "Cash made a couple of references to Saul Holiff, the Londoner who managed him for years. He praised Holiff and said Holiff quit working in show business because he wanted to spend more time with his family 'and I can understand that.'"

For Holiff, the fact that he left on his own terms was always a point of pride. In the 1976 interview with Candy Yates, he tells her that "I gave Johnny up; Johnny didn't give me up."

Much later, as part of a list of accomplishments--titled "On the Subject of Determination (in spite of winging it on my own)," and dated 1 September 2001--he included the circumstances of his relationship with Cash and his resignation: "Stuck it out with Johnny against all odds - then left on my terms."

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