Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Johnny Cash and Joseph Stalin

This is an example of some of the weird music trivia I stumble upon. Whether this story is true is up for debate, but let’s go through it anyway.

In 1950, an 18-year-old Johnny Cash joined the Air Force and eventually worked his way into being a pretty solid Morse code operation. For a while, his job was to monitor Morse code communications coming from the Soviet Union, decode them, and report back any interesting findings to his superiors.

On March 3, 1953, Johnny was at work when he intercepted a message saying that Joseph Stalin, the USSR’s murderous dictator, had died. He was the first to hear the message of Stalin’s death as it was being broadcast to members of the Soviet military establishment.

He passed it up the chain and that’s how the rest of the world found out. There are people who dispute that—I mean, how could Johnny have done this if he didn’t speak Russian?—but it still makes for a good story.

Yesterday’s Ongoing History Daily was about the almost-merger of Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37882 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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