Though they were friends early in the King’s career, Johnny Cash respected Elvis Presley’s privacy when he began closing himself off. The former explained their relationship in his book, Cash: The Autobiography.
“He and I liked each other, but we weren’t that tight – I was older than he was, for one thing, and married, for another – and we weren’t close at all in his later years,” Cash wrote. “I took the hint when he closed his world around him; I didn’t try to invade his privacy. I’m so glad I didn’t, either, because so many of his old friends were embarrassed so badly when they were turned away at Graceland. In the ’60s and ’70s he and I chatted on the phone a couple of times and swapped notes now and again. If he were closing at the Las Vegas Hilton as I was getting ready to open, he’d wish me luck, that kind of thing – but that was about the extent of it.”
According to Cash, his relationship with Elvis was primarily when the latter was a young artist. They both recorded at Sun Records back in the 1950s.
Johnny Cash Talks Working With Elvis in the ’50s
“I’ve heard it said that here at the end of the century, we all have our own Elvis; and I can appreciate that idea, even though my Elvis was my friend, flesh and blood in real life,” said Cash.” Certainly, though, my Elvis was the Elvis of the ’50s. He was a kid when I worked with him. He was nineteen years old, and he loved cheeseburgers, girls, and his mother, not necessarily in that order. It was more like his mother, then girls, then cheeseburgers. Personally, I liked cheeseburgers and I had nothing against his mother, but the girls were the thing. He had so many girls after him that whenever he was working with us, there were always plenty left over. “
“We had a lot of fun, he continued. “We had a lot of fun in general, not just with the girls. It was nice that we could make a living at it, but every one of us would have done it for free. And you know, Elvis was so good. Every show I did with him, I never missed the chance to stand in the wings and watch. We all did. He was that charismatic.”
Additionally, Cash’s son said this of the artists: “They each had their own individual, unique traits as artists. Dad’s reached in different directions than Elvis’ did, enduring a legacy as a long-standing artist, having resurgences and renaissances throughout his life. Dad carried on and he made music up until the very end. In some way, his legacy’s quite a bit different, but he always appreciated and loved Elvis.”