That Time a Sheriff Tried To Blackmail Johnny Cash but the Man in Black Refused To Back Down
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That Time a Sheriff Tried To Blackmail Johnny Cash but the Man in Black Refused To Back Down

Johnny Cash, the iconic Man in Black who died in 2003, was fancifully considered an "outlaw" by some, reported Forbes, but that was part of the mythic lore that enveloped him rather than the truth. His brooding stage persona and somber garb probably contributed to that impression.

What was all too accurate about Cash, though, was his troubling, years-long addiction to drugs and booze.

It dogged him personally and professionally, but despite his woes, he was a person of staunch character and guts.

Take the time long ago that Cash was blackmailed by a former El Paso sheriff's sergeant - and refused to knuckle under.

It's a colorful story about the larger-than-life performer that illustrates his toughness, integrity, and unwillingness to yield the moral high ground.

Johnny Cash Had a Serious Hankering for Liquor and Pills

He Allegedly Consumed Shocking Quantities of Both

It helps to know more about the long-standing addiction that landed Cash in hot water with this ex-Texas law enforcement official.

Many successful music and film stars have contended with major addiction issues. Some managed to conceal it better than others with the assistance of their loyal entourage.

The pressure of movie-making or recording, concert touring, living up to fans' expectations, maintaining their image and stature in the industry, fending off the sometimes too-inquisitive media and having a satisfying private life often leads them to seek relief in the bottle or with dangerous self-medication.

Johnny Cash was no exception.

His "drug problem was far worse than many people thought - and led to him crashing cars, cancelling entire tours and taking over 100 pills a day...," according to (per The Man Who Carried Cash by Julie Chadwick).

His Life Was Nosediving

Cash's self-destructive habits impacted his professional life, according to published reports. His substance intake eventually got so massively out of control that "it threaten[ed] his career," stated His personal life was pretty much in shambles, too.

The 2005 biopic Walk The Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon suggests the extent to which Cash was at the mercy of his reliance upon drinking, barbiturates, and amphetamines, reported

At times, that dependence unfortunately got the upper hand.

Cash Was Keenly Aware of the Mortal Peril He Flirted With

He had no illusions about the quicksand that was engulfing him. In fact, Cash allegedly said, "I was taking the pills for awhile, and then the pills started taking me."

Talking candidly to fans in 1971, Cash said, "For a long time I took my chances and tried a little bit of everything there was to try. Most any of it could have killed me while I was taking it, but I was lucky enough to survive. For anybody else, it probably would have meant certain death."

Johnny Cash's Arrest for Drug Possession in 1965

He Was Caught in Texas With Drugs

Cash took some hazardous risks while he was using drugs. On October 5, 1965, he was nabbed by customs agents at El Paso International Airport when he tried to go over the border from Mexico to El Paso while bringing "668 Dexadrine and 475 Equanil tablets" he allegedly purchased in Juarez back to this country stashed in his guitar case, reported

He Got Off Easy

The justice system was relatively kind to Cash. According to, he received a "$1,000 fine and a 30-day suspended sentence." Not exactly a heavy-duty wake-up call, but there was more in store for Cash years later related to this incident.

His Run-In With the Ex-Sheriff's Sergeant

A Man Named Jesus Gurrola Tried To Blackmail Johnny Cash

Gurrola, who was with the El Paso sheriff's department from 1979 to 1983 and was reportedly fired, made a clumsy attempt to get money from Cash on January 29, 1984 in return for not sending his mug shot and arrest records to publications like the National Enquirer, People, and Parade, according to

Gurrola supposedly sent Cash a letter containing this threat on that date which did not mention an amount of money he wanted in exchange for his silence. Incredibly, however, the letter stated that Gurrola looked up to Cash, who "always fought back"!

He Never Paid Gurrola Anything

Cash wisely did not pay Gurrola a dime, according to WhiskyRiff. As for Gurrola, he pled guilty to extortion. He got 500 hours of community service, a $500 fine, plus supervised probation for five years.

The story of what happened to Cash - or more precisely, what nearly happened - could have been the subject of one of Cash's ballads. Good guy is almost ripped off by an opportunist who got his comeuppance.

This strange episode merely adds to the fascination that Johnny Cash still (and will always) command.....