Remember When Johnny Cash Had a Wardrobe Malfunction in Front of a Former First Lady?

It’s easy to think of our musical heroes as something other than human. Sure, they can tap into the core of the human experience with their songs. However, many fans tend to think of them as larger-than-life beings who never need to worry about embarrassment. Johnny Cash, one of the most legendary performers in country music history would beg to differ. Once, while performing for a former First Lady, he had a massive wardrobe malfunction that he called his “most embarrassing moment.”

Videos by American Songwriter

Let’s set the scene. It was 1971 and Cash was on top of the world. In late September, Cash was one of many top-ranked performers on the bill at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington. They were there to celebrate former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s diamond jubilee, a few months before her 75th birthday.

While on the stage with the former First Lady, countless government officials, and celebrities in the audience, Cash suffered a wardrobe malfunction.

Johnny Cash Discusses His Most Embarrassing Moment

In 1988, Cash appeared on Later with Bob Costas. During the interview, Costas brought up the incident at the Astoria and the Man in Black shared the story.

“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. “That was Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, and a lot of people at the Waldorf Astoria. It was a tribute to Mamie Eisenhower—a dinner—back in ’71,” he recalled. “I had on this Andrew Jackson suit, these tight ski pants with a strap under the heel,” he added.

Cash went on to say that the announcer introduced him and he took the stage to do a four-song medley of train songs. “With my guitar on my shoulder and a pick in my hand, I hit the first lick and kicked my leg out and busted my pants from my ankle to my crotch,” he revealed. “I looked, my bare leg hanging out, and Mamie Eisenhower is sitting ten feet in front of me.”

“I was so embarrassed,” he admitted. “Everybody was trying not to laugh because they were so embarrassed for me. It was evident that I was just dying,” he added. However, Cash had a job to do, so he did it, split pants and all.

“I put my legs together and I did the train medley and I ran off and ran up to my room,” he said.

Cash went on to say that he went up to his room at the luxury hotel and took off his ruined outfit. His embarrassment had turned to anger. He said he was “cussin’ and screamin’ and hollerin’” until June Carter walked in.

“God Just Busted Your Britches”

“She just sits down in a chair in the corner and she starts laughing at me,” Cash recalled about Carter’s reaction. “That made me mad. I really got mad. I said, ‘What in the hell are you laughing about?’”

Carter told him, “Calm down just a little bit. You’ve got the No. 1 record with ‘A Boy Named Sue.’ You’ve got the No. 1 television show. You’re one of the biggest record-sellers in the world, albums and everything else. You’re a very popular person.” Cash was confused and wanted to know what his success had to do with him splitting his pants in front of the upscale audience.

“God has just busted your britches,” Carter told him.

Years later, Johnny Cash was able to laugh about the incident.

Featured Image by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Exclusive: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Bassist Billy Talbot Shares Details About Band’s Love Earth Tour

Exclusive: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Bassist Billy Talbot Shares Details About Band’s Love Earth Tour