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Johnny Cash's Secret Life Of Drugs, Booze & Criminal Behavior EXPOSED

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Jul. 27 2017, Published 10:05 a.m. ET

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The late great Johnny Cash is lucky he found the Lord and true love — because he ­surely would have self-destructed otherwise. According to a cache of ­secret correspondence — hidden for decades by his former manager, Saul Holiff — The Man in Black was deep into drugs, booze, unrestrained lust and criminal behavior  far beyond anything previously reported!

Holiff, who committed suicide at age 80 in 2005, had tucked away a trove of personal letters, audiotapes and diary entries in a storage locker. Opened after Holiff's death and now revealed in a shocking new book, "The Man Who Carried Cash," by Julie Chadwick, the evidence proves the country legend was a truly tortured soul.

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"Johnny's drug problem was far more intense than as portrayed in films like 'Walk the Line,'" says Chadwick.

Holiff became Cash's manager in 1960 and steered his client toward superstardom. Along the way, however, he bore witness to Johnny's dark side and the downward spiral that threatened to end his career — and his life!

Once Johnny even smashed his then-mistress June Carter's fancy Cadillac into a phone pole, knocked out his teeth and was refused treatment from doctors who believed the injured star was "bad news."

Another time he was found overdosed and "virtually dead" on the floor of his motor home after a show in Toronto in 1966.

Fans of the "Folsom Prison Blues" singer know he was no angel in his youth, but the extent of his wild ways haven't come to light before. Johnny may not have shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, but he did shoot up a hotel in Canada just for fun! When capers like flushing a cherry bomb down a toilet and trashing rooms grew boring, Johnny and two men in his entourage ran into the hallway, firing Colt .45 pistols!

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Perhaps his most damaging act occurred in June 1965, when a drugged-up Johnny accidentally started a fire in California's Los Padres National Forest that destroyed more than 500 acres, displaced 49 endangered condors and almost got him killed. Though Johnny blamed a faulty exhaust system on his truck for the blaze, his nephew, Damon Fielder, who was present, believed the star started a fire for warmth and was too stoned to notice it had gotten out of control.

Pills — of which he could down 100 a day — played a huge part in Johnny's train-wreck years. But his problems were also fueled by a passion for a woman he could never have. Johnny fell hard for beautiful singer Billie Jean ­Horton, the widow of both Hank Williams and Johnny Horton. But she eventually spurned him when she learned of his wife, Vivian, and his four young children!

Ultimately, Johnny fell in love with June, with whom he was touring. Even then, Holiff covered for Cash.

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"He Holiff definitely respected Vivian and had to deal with her on the phone when Johnny didn't come home and she didn't know where he was," says the author. "There's this one incident after a show at Hollywood Bowl, which Johnny Western describes in the book in which Vivian was waiting in the parking lot after the show to see Johnny and he just breezed past and said 'hi' to her and his girls then went to his car and June got in and they took off. Vivian was just left there devastated."

Upon divorcing their respective spouses, they married in 1968, and devoutly religious June helped turn his life around. The couple lived and worked as a team until their deaths in 2003. But the relationship between Johnny and Holiff went south in 1973.

"Holiff had covered for John for so many years," says Lou Robin, Johnny's subsequent manager, "and he just got tired of it." But Holiff remained loyal and still took Johnny's most wicked secrets to the grave!

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