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Biography & Autobiography Composers & Musicians

The Man Who Carried Cash

Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and the Making of an American Icon

by (author) Julie Chadwick

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
May 2017
Composers & Musicians, Rich & Famous, Entertainment & Performing Arts
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2017
    List Price

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The unlikely, rocky relationship between an American country superstar and his straightlaced Canadian manager.

Before there was Johnny and June, there was Johnny and Saul. The Man Who Carried Cash chronicles a relationship that was both volatile and affectionate between Johnny Cash and his manager, Saul Holiff. From roadside taverns to the roaring crowds at Madison Square Garden, from wrecked cars and jail cells all the way to the White House, the story of Johnny and Saul is a portrait of two men from different worlds who were more alike than either cared to admit.

Saul handled the bookings and the no-shows, the divorce and the record deals, drugs, overdoses, and arrests. He was there for the absolute worst of times, but also for the best: Carnegie Hall, Folsom Prison, “A Boy Named Sue,” and Cash’s hit television series. But in 1973, at the zenith of Cash’s career, Saul quit. Until now, no one knew why.


About the author

Julie Chadwick is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has appeared in the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist and Vice.

She lives in Nanaimo, BC.

Julie Chadwick's profile page


  • Unknown, A Dewey Divas and Dudes Summer 2017 pick

Excerpt: The Man Who Carried Cash: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and the Making of an American Icon (by (author) Julie Chadwick)


The sun was setting as Saul Holiff crossed the living-room floor, his shadow falling on the neatly packed bookshelves as he rounded the corner and entered his study. He looked trim in his tailored black slacks and cashmere sweater; his stride was smooth and purposeful. Despite his seventy-nine years, he was in fairly good health, aside from a heart condition that was controlled with medication. Pulling a set of keys from his pocket, he unlocked the top drawer and pulled it open. He removed the kit from a small black leather bag and placed it on top of the desk. Methodically, he began to remove his jewellery and place it in the drawer.
First he slipped off the slim Piaget watch from his left wrist, then the thin gold wristband from his right. He struggled to loosen the wedding band that had been a fixture on his hand for forty years. The wallet was last.
He reached for the keys, just as he had done in every practice run. But something had changed. He studied the keys in the palm of his hand. Locking the drawer was pointless. He dropped them into the drawer and closed it.
The curtain of dusk began to fall. As he returned to the living room, he flicked on a single lamp, which threw off just enough light to see. The leather sofa squeaked slightly as he sat. The kit, he placed in the centre of the glass coffee table in front of him.
He went over his checklist:
Sit in an upright position ( check).
Eat a little food to prevent vomiting (check).
Drink a small amount of alcohol to augment the action of the drug (check).
He unzipped the kit and parted it against the surface of the table. A television flickered in the corner but was silent. The bottle of pills clicked as he placed it on the table. He removed a black garbage bag and a large elastic band.
He separated a number of gelatin capsules and lightly tapped their contents into a crystal glass, forming a mound of fine reddish powder. Using a long spoon, his actions measured, he mixed in a liberal amount of Stolichnaya, his favourite vodka, and topped it off with a splash of orange juice. Then he lifted the glass to his lips and drank its contents without stopping.
The garbage bag lay beside him, edges rolled up carefully over the elastic band. This part, he had practised a number of times, unrolling and re-rolling the bag until it could be brought down over his face in one smooth action. His wife, Barbara, was on the couch next to him. He turned to meet her eyes and spoke his last words: “Remember what we agreed. You stay in the bedroom and don’t come out, no matter what, until this thing is over. ”
He pulled the bag over his head and filled it with air, before quickly placing the large elastic band around his throat to create a seal.
Barbara was in the bedroom when she heard the noise. Perched on the edge of her mattress, plucking at a stray thread on the bedspread, she raised her head at the sound, hoping she had just imagined it. Straining to listen over the pounding of her heart, it came again, a muffled shout. The third cry brought her to her feet, and instinct forced her out the door and into the living room, toward the sofa. Do not leave the bedroom, no matter what. His last words echoed in her mind. She froze. The Seconal, a fast-acting sedative used to calm patients before surgery, was beginning to hit his bloodstream in a vodka-enhanced flood. Barbara watched in horror as Saul’s arms rose and lagged in the air. She wanted nothing more than to tear that wretched thing off his head, if only to stop the sound he was making, a sound that was now etched into her mind.
She stood rooted to the carpet for a moment, her hands trembling, then turned mechanically and walked back into the bedroom. The lamp on her bedside table remained dark. She turned her wedding band around and around on her finger. I promised I wouldn’t interfere. If I revive him and he ends up a vegetable, or maimed in some way — no, it is impossible, he would never forgive me. As night fell, the patches of silence in the living room expanded until their edges bled together seamlessly. It was over.
It was March 17, 2005.
After what seemed like hours, Barbara emerged from the room. The slumped figure on the couch did not stir. She knew everything had to be left exactly as it was, so she touched nothing except to gently hold her husband’s hand, already cooling to the touch. She remained there for a moment, feeling the tears on her cheeks. Then, she slowly rose and called the police.

Editorial Reviews

The Man Who Carried Cash is riveting.

Shelagh Rogers, host of CBC's The Next Chapter

A must-read for anyone interested in the life and career of Johnny Cash and the man who truly made it happen for him.

A must-read regardless of your musical taste.

An excellent book, full of insight about what made The Man in Black tick. If you’re a Cash fan — and who isn’t? — this is essential reading.

A trip with this book feels like a criminally detailed peek into a very complex relationship.

Creative Loafing (Tampa Bay, FL)

The details of Johnny Cash’s personal life and heady, turbulent rise to stardom will be a boon to fans, as well as steeping readers in the music of the 1960s.

Vancouver Sun

Julie Chadwick has brought the story to life in a book I found hard to put down. In fact I read the manuscript I was sent in just a few days. There were many stories that were new to me and even those I already knew often had additional information.

Peter Lewry, author of A Johnny Cash Chronicle: I've Been Everywhere

I have read tons and tons of music bios — in fact, I'll read almost any music biography. Honestly, this was one of the better ones. Like in the 90 percent rating percentile.

Adrian Chamberlain, entertainment editor at the Victoria Times Colonist

An informative, well researched and measured portrait of an underappreciated and highly influential man in Canadian music.

Spill Magazine

Reveals the complicated, exhilarating and entertaining story of Saul Holiff and his management of American icon Johnny Cash in The Man Who Carried Cash.

Offers a very different and occasionally unflattering look at a country music legend, a side of the story not often seen: the human side.

A compelling read…Chadwick's great success is in her study of the relationship of two men who were completely dependent on one another.

Folk Roots with Mike Regenstreif

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