The Surprising Way Johnny Cash Remembered The Lyrics To One Of His Songs

One night in the early 1960s, classic country singer Webb Pierce visited another country music star, Johnny Cash, in his sleep, according to Ultimate Guitar. In the dream, Pierce was singing Cash a song, but when Cash woke up, he couldn't remember all the lyrics. That song, called "I'd Still Be There," and produced in the subconscious of Johnny Cash, would go on to be one of his most well-regarded tunes, a B-side to Cash's single "Ring of Fire," per Discogs. It's also included in the 1969, "Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash" compilation, via AllMusic. How did Cash remember the rest of the words? That's where another country singer entirely, Johnny Horton, enters the story.

This would not be the only example of a hit song starting life while the songwriter slept. According to "Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles," a 2007 biography of the band, Paul McCartney wrote the song "Yesterday" after he was visited by the melody while dreaming. As Cash wrote in his autobiography, "Cash," per All About Heaven, Johnny Horton, a contemporary of Johnny Cash, was interested in auto suggestion — otherwise known as hypnosis. Desperate to remember the lyrics to his imagined Webb Pierce song, Cash turned to his friend for advice.

He was hypnotized

As Johnny Cash remembered in his autobiography, via All About Heaven, Johnny Horton (pictured above) would hypnotize the singer by first telling him to relax, saying, "Now you're so relaxed you can't even move. You can't even raise your hands. You absolutely cannot raise your right hand. Try to raise it. You can't," according to Cash. And even though he never lost consciousness, Cash could not, at that point, lift his hand, as if in a trance. From there, Cash's recollection began to open up. As Cash continued in his autobiography, Horton then instructed him to return to the dream state with pencil and paper.

Instantly, Cash was back to the point in the dream when Webb was singing the song and the missing words were within his grasp, writing them down as best he could. Even then, Cash was unsure it was worth it, "It sounded so much more like a Webb Pierce song than a Johnny Cash song that I was afraid Webb would cover me on it, but he didn't." as he wrote in his book. Interestingly, Horton, not Webb, is listed as the song's co-writer, via Discogs. There are certainly bigger hits in the Johnny Cash repertoire, but fans of Cash and "I'd Still Be There" are happy nonetheless he went to such unusual lengths to remember the words of that beloved song.