Alcohol, drugs and lawsuits with the Man in Black: Son of Johnny Cash’s manager reveals all before Manchester screening

Exclusive by Samson Dada 

The son of Johnny Cash’s personal manager is revealing all about his estranged father’s life working for the Man in Black – and its effects on his own upbringing – ahead of his new film on the subject.

My Father and the Man in Black is being shown at Manchester’s Cornerhouse on Sunday – and MM caught up with its award-winning director ahead of the screening.

Director Jonathan Holiff created My Father and the Man in Black to explain why his emotionally distant and fiercely driven father Saul Holiff unexpectedly committed suicide on March 17 2005 – without leaving a note.

Holiff also looks at how his father coped with the burden of managing Johnny Cash, one of the most talented musicians of the 20th century.

Holiff told MM: “My father treated like me like one of his clients. He made me sign contracts as a child.

“The film was a unique experience for me to know him while he was alive and after he was born via audio files never intended to be heard.”

CLOSE: Johnny Cash with personal manager Saul Holiff while rehearsing

After being inundated with calls from journalists after his father’s death, his mother gave him the key to a storage lockage belonging to his father.

Holiff saw an unknown reflective side to his father after discovering more than 600 letters, many handwritten between Saul, Johnny and his wife June Carter Cash, who performed and toured with Johnny for 40 years.

It also included 60 hours of personal audio diaries with Cash recorded in the early 1960s and his problems with prescription drugs such as arrest warrants and mug shots.

Saul had handled the high and low points of Grammy Awards to his divorce with his wife of 13 years Vivian Liberto for indiscretions and substance abuse.


“It was inescapable how tenuous my father’s job was as Cash was up and down so often with court appearances, his addiction with prescription drugs, missing promotions, alcohol abuse and lawsuits.”

But in 1973 at the height of Cash’s career, troubled by alcoholism, Holiff unexpectedly resigned after 13 years after a major argument with June was the final straw.

This was unprecedented as during that era it was unheard of for managers to walk away from lucrative deals with superstars and stars often fired their managers.

“Managers would more readily convert to scientology than to walk away from earning millions of dollars managing a superstar,” Holiff said.

Ultimately, Holiff realised that he learnt more about his father after he died compared to when he was alive and that he was conscious of his shortcomings but struggled to overcome them.

 “My father was a brilliant, hard working man with character flaws that were major. He was self-aware, unable to change and consequently a tragic figure.”

My Father and the Man in Black will be screened at Cornerhouse, Oxford Street, Manchester, on Sunday August 18 at 18:20 pm.

To buy tickets go to

Picture courtesy of Joel Baldwin via Look Magazine image release, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles