The Johnny Cash Family Tree of Performers

The House of Cash is one of the most critical and accomplished family lineages in the history of country music. Though Johnny Cash is where most of the attention dwells, now three generations of performers have emerged, while Cash’s siblings have also contributed to the country music canon.

You also can’t mention the Cash family without The Carter Family, of which Johnny Cash married into when he wed June Carter. Henceforth the story of these two important families were intertwined. But since that family tree is so vast, it will be chronicled separately. Below is the line of succession of music performers and contributors with authentic Cash blood in them.

READ: The Hank Williams Family Tree of Performers

Johnny Cash

(February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003)

Cash. The Man in Black. Just as much myth as legend. From being one of the primary members of the nascent explosion of popular music in America when he emerged out of Sun Studios in Memphis, to influencing a sixth decade of performers when he paired with Rick Rubin and experienced one of the most improbable late-career resurgences, arguably no artist ever left a wider and deeper crater on American culture from the position of a country artist than Johnny Cash.

Sure, there are country performers with more hit records and songs. There were probably more influential performers in country music for their time. Some love to point out that Johnny Cash wasn’t really even that country at all, but more of a rockabilly cat. But the way Johnny Cash could bring people together from across cultural divides and loom like a demigod wherever his shadow was cast is what made him so remarkable. Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, rock or country, Gospel or Outlaw—even hip-hop legends worship at the alter of Johnny Cash.

From participating in the legendary Million Dollar Quartet, to the country music supergroup The Highwaymen, to playing prisons and collaborating with Bob Dylan, from launching The Johnny Cash Show which in retrospect was one of the most critical melting pots in American history, Johnny Cash did it all. It’s clear to see that life in America and beyond would be compositionally different in very fundamental ways if it wasn’t for the life of Johnny Cash, and it would be fundamentally different today if he was still alive to share his calming wisdom.

Tommy Cash

(born April 5, 1940)

With the way the legacy of Johnny Cash looms so large, you could almost forget that Johnny’s brother eight years his junior also had a pretty sizable career of his own. Tommy Cash was the youngest of the seven children of Ray and Carrie (Rivers) Cash, and similar to Johnny, his music career started while he was still serving in the military and became a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Network.

After leaving the military, Tommy Cash started touring around with Hank Williams Jr. before signing with Musicor Records in 1965, and started releasing singles. He wasn’t too successful on the label, and eventual moved to United Artists, where he started gaining attention. It was the song “Six White Horses” in 1969 written by Larry Murray about the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. that put Tommy Cash on the map in his own right, earning him a #4 hit in country, and a #1 in Canada.

Tommy Cash followed this up with two more Top 10’s in “Rise and Shine” and “One Song Away,” and would land a dozen more Top 40 hits over the next four years. Though his commercial impact would slow shortly thereafter, Tommy Cash was and is a regular performer at traditional country gatherings and Johnny Cash remembrances. A licensed real estate agent in Tennessee as well, he’s also helped manage the properties associated with the family.

Tommy’s son Mark Alan Cash is also a performer.

Joanne Cash Yates

Johnny Cash’s youngest sister Joanne grew up just like Johnny and Tommy, singing Gospel hymns during the day while picking cotton, and then entertaining themselves with country and Gospel radio programs at night. After being hired on at Johnny’s House of Cash studio, Joanne started singing professionally live, especially in the Gospel realm.

But Joanne Cash’s greatest contribution to country and Nashville might be her co-founding of the Nashville Cowboy Church, which is still in operation today. Marrying Dr. Harry Yates, Joanne traveled for 15 years in a gospel ministry, but decided to settle down in 1990. Holding their first service in a Holiday Inn lounge to six people, soon the Nashville Cowboy Church swelled to a congregation hundreds, and moved to the Texas Troubadour Theater across the street from the Grand Ole Opry where it still resides today (COVID-19 restrictions notwithstanding).

Rosanne Cash

(born May 24, 1955)

Aside from Hank Williams Jr., there’s no other son or daughter of country music more accomplished that Rosanne Cash. Well, Rosanne’s stepmother June Carter may have something to say about that. But the eldest child of Cash from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto left a huge impact on country music in the 80’s, and remains active today.

Starting her career as a wardrobe assistant for her father on the road, and then working herself into the position of a backup singer, Rosanne spent much of her early life dabbling with music, but with only one foot in. She moved to London, then back to Nashville to attend college, then out to Los Angeles to study to be an actor, writing, recording, and releasing songs along the way, but with no real solid direction.

That all changed when she married Rodney Crowell in 1978, and they started a musical relationship that was one of the most successful throughout the 80’s. A more pop-oriented artist as far as style, yet with deep artistry in her lyricism, the song and album “Seven Year Ache” in 1981 shot Rosanne Cash to the front of the line in country, where she would proceed to land ten #1 singles out of the 15 she released in the 80’s decade.

When the hits ran out for her in the 90’s, Rosanne Cash reverted back to her roots and became a respected member of the Americana movement, including with second husband and producer John Leventhal by her side. With a pretty incredible 16 Grammy nominations and four wins, Rosanne Cash is a credible contender for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Cindy Cash

(born July 29th, 1959)

Though Cindy didn’t decide to get into the family business full time like older sister Rosanne or half brother John Carter, Cindy Cash’s musical contributions are still worth noting. She sang with her father and later her stepmother June Carter often, and made appearances on The Johnny Cash Show. Cindy was just nine when her dad and mother Vivian divorced. Also important to note, Cindy was married to Marty Stuart from 1983 to 1988—around the time Marty Stuart was playing in Johnny Cash’s band. Cindy and Marty were married when they were both 21-years-old.

But perhaps most interesting—and relevant to the conversation of famous offspring in country music—Cindy Cash performed in the group called The Next Generation in the late 80’s, which included Loretta Lynn’s daughter Peggy, Conway Twitty’s daughter Kathy, and the daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Georgette Jones.

Cindy’s involvement in music has been mostly relegated to dalliances here and there. Her other passion has been antiques, and she’s owned stores and worked as a dealer for many years. She also published a book on the Cash family in 1997 called The Cash Family Scrapbook.

John Carter Cash

(born March 3, 1970)

Being the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter gives John Carter Cash a rare purity of country music royal blood, and makes him the only true nexus between two of country music’s top musical families. Though John Carter has recorded and performed as a solo artist throughout his music career, he didn’t inherit the same hunger for the spotlight like mom and pops. Instead, John Carter’s primary way through life has been as a producer.

Loretta Lynn, Marty Stuart, Brooks & Dunn, Jamey Johnson, Billy Joe Shaver, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, his mother, his father, and his sister Rosanne are just some of the names John Carter has produced, and successfully so, having produced five Grammy-winning records. John Carter Cash is one of those critical players behind-the-scenes that makes great music happen that you never hear enough about.

Along with his work with individual artists, John Carter Cash is the caretaker of the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, TN, which has birthed many famous recordings itself. He’s also very much the face and voice of the Cash estate, regularly penning the forwards of books, and the liner notes of albums that involve his famous father. He’s also an author, writing both about his family’s legacy, as well as three children’s books.

John Carter’s wife Ana Cristina Cash is also a performer, singer, and songwriter.

Thomas Gabriel

Thomas Gabriel doesn’t need a history lesson on Johnny Cash; he received one while growing up. He was the first grandson of Johnny Cash, and his mother Kathy gave birth to him when she was just 16, meaning grandparents Johnny and June often stepped in to help with parenting. At only 13, Thomas Gabriel was already showing signs of inheriting the family’s musical attributes, as well as his grandfather’s propensity towards addiction. It was at this age that Johnny Cash took Thomas to his first AA meeting, and saw the teenager being plagued by the same demons he was. It would be one meeting of many.

But Thomas Gabriel would work his way through the worst of his family history, initially that is. Johnny Cash could see how music could be a difficult road for Thomas with his addiction troubles, and instead compelled him to become a police officer, which he did for eight years. But overnight patrol shifts and bottles of pills still led Thomas down a troubled path, and eventually he found himself on the flip side of the law, floating in and out of jail, and eventually serving a 10 year prison sentence.

Now Thomas Gabriel finally has control of his demons to the point where he can pursue music with purpose, and with a handful of songs—many he wrote while in prison—that are more than worthy of the Johnny Cash legacy. In his 2018 album Long Way Home, Thomas Gabriel takes you through an autobiography of a very turbulent, incarcerated, addiction-riddled life with an eerie connectivity and continuation of the Johnny Cash story.

photo: Q Avenue Photo

Chelsea Crowell

The daughter of Rosanne and Rodney never wanted to be considered riding off anyone’s coattails or taking advantage of her famous name. After touring and performing with both her mother and her father, Chelsea released multiple albums without any label backing, and all self-funded. Her self-titled album from 2009, Crystal City from 2011, as well as a duo project called Jane Only with songwriting partner Stephen Braren from the pop/punk group Cheap Time all showcase depth of lyricism that would do mom and dad proud.

Open about her anxieties of making music over the years, Chelsea Crowell has remained under-the-radar compared to many of the other sons and daughters of country. But her writing talents are undeniable.

Jakob Leventhal

The youngest performer that can still boast having authentic Cash blood coursing through his veins, the only offspring of the Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal marriage has decided to make his way in the world through earnest and expansive folk-style offerings that at times veer into the world of indie rock.

Based in New York City and Chicago, Jakob is very active and has released multiple singles, and 8-song album in 2019 called Oh, So Bittersweet, and an EP in 2020 called Greenwich Village Ghosts which included a collaboration with Sarah Jarosz. Jakob has also worked as an engineer, mixer, and producer, including for his mother.

More Cash Family Tree Info

Siblings of Johnny Cash (in order of age): Roy, Margaret Louise, Jack, Johnny, Reba, Joanne, and Tommy.

Children of Johnny Cash:

From wife Vivian Liberto (in order of age): Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara

From wife June Carter: John Carter

Children of Rosanne Cash:

From husband Rodney Crowell (in order of age): Caitlin, Chelsea, and Carrie (and Hannah from Crowell’s previous marriage)

From husband John Leventhal: Jakob Leventhal

Children of John Carter Cash:

Joseph John Cash, Anna Maybelle Cash, Jack Ezra Cash, Grace June Cash

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