When I was working Hank and Billy Don Burns, “Desperate Men” album to the Americana chart it came time to make the push for #1. Hank took great interest in the strategy of radio promotion and had all kinds of “creative” ideas on what to do about it. He had no problem calling radio stations to talk and do phoners at my suggestion, but he also thought the old days of payola, etc. were still fair play. I tried to explain the integrity of the Americana format, chart and stations and had finally convinced them that the best music won, and the cream would rise to the top. So Hank and Billy let me do my work and lo and behold “Desperate Men” achieved the #2 position and came up right behind Johnny Cash.
At some point in the process I told the guys that I also was working Johnny’s album. Hank and Billy were getting frustrated that Johnny was staying at #1 for weeks. This friendly competition goes on each week, to this day on Music Row as writers, artists, and publishers at the top of the charts are neck and neck. Somebody is always at #1 and somebody is always at #2 ready to get there. Many times everybody knows each other and the rivalry is good natured. That was how I remember it being with Hank and Billy at the time and Hank and Johnny were certainly close friends of many, many years.
But Hank had a brilliant idea! “I’ll just call Johnny and tell him to get out of our way!” Sounds simple enough. Of course, I thought this would never work and dreaded the whole thing but Hank was friends with Johnny and there was no stopping him.
A few days later, sure enough, Johnny finally dropped out and “Desperate Men” hit #1 at the Americana chart. Huge excitement at Desperate Men HQ that night as the three of us celebrated! Of course, this all happened as it should, Johnny had been up there a long time and the airplay reflected that. It was going to happen no matter what. Shortly after getting the big news, the fax kicked in. Hank pulls it out and hands it to Billy.
To: Billy Don Burns
From: John Cash
Congratulations! you deserve it. I’ll be happy to move out of #1 spot and let you have it. I been there. Done that. John Cash