On this Day in Music History: Johnny Cash Trades Outfits with Elton John While Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’

Johnny Cash and comedic genius don’t seem immediately synonymous. Throughout his career, Cash gained a reputation as the Man in Black, a hardscrabble country troubadour who sang of hard times and tough living. However, his duties as host of Saturday Night Live on this day (April 17) in 1982, proved just how funny the oh-so-serious country star could be.

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Cash pulled double duty in a sense, showing off his musical skills in his monologue set to “Man in Black.” Elton John was billed as the night’s musical guest, but who says no to a quick Cash classic-turned-parody?

The host appeared in several sketches like a faux ad for dandruff, in which a head is shaken over the Man in Black to test for a flaky scalp. He also took on the role of train poet that found him aboard a commuter train spouting vague, but prose-filled wisdom. One sketch also featured the singer alongside the then-budding comedian Eddie Murphy.

Check out the Tegrim dandruff “commercial” below.

Cash, however, stole the show when, ahead of John’s performance, he stepped into view wearing an over-the-top costume courtesy of the “Rocket Man” artist himself. Donning a feather boa and floor-length sequin cape, Cash caused an uproar from the audience. Glimmering in shades of gold and pink, the former Man in Black spoke from behind a full face of bug-eyed spectacles and even more feathers, introducing John for his set.

“Working with our special guest has been a big thrill for me,” Cash told the audience, holding back laughter. “He’s a wonderful entertainer and you can’t work with a guy like Elton John without having his showmanship and flash rub off on you.”

With that introduction, the camera panned to reveal a cowboy hat-crowned John, seated at the piano in a subdued black get-up in the quintessential Cash fashion.

See the exchange below.

Courtesy of The John R Cash Trust / Shorefire Media

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