This collection features materials from the archives of Saul Holiff, the Canadian manager of one of the most iconic figures in American music history: Johnny Cash. Holiff, who started out as a concert promoter in the late 1950s in London, Ontario, managed Cash from 1961-1973, by turns the most tumultuous and remarkable years of the singer’s life, and resigned at the pinnacle of Cash’s success. The collection, held in Special Collections at the University of Victoria Libraries, contains photographs, letters, audio recordings, diaries, gold records, and ephemera that Holiff carefully accumulated during his career and preserved until the end of his life.
Some of these materials have been cited in books and documentaries about Cash--including Johnny Cash: The Life (2013) by Robert Hilburn; Johnny Cash: The Biography (2006) by Michael Streissguth; The Man Called Cash (2004) by Steve Turner; and Half a Mile a Day (2000) by Al Greenfield--and the fact that Cash biographers have consistently sought access to Holiff's archives indicates how significant they are. But Holiff was also selective about what he shared when he agreed to be interviewed. Only recent projects such as the award-winning documentary My Father and the Man in Black (2013), written and directed by Holiff's son Jonathan, and the biography The Man Who Carried Cash: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and the Making of an American Icon (2017) by Julie Chadwick, have begun to represent the scope of the archives.
This collection focuses primarily on Holiff’s management years and features photographs, contracts, ephemera, and correspondence that document his relationship with Cash. But the archives also include many items related to Holiff’s family, education, and personal beliefs on religion, politics, and death, as well as extensive materials related to the making of Jonathan Holiff’s documentary, My Father and the Man in Black. The collection draws on these letters, photographs, diaries, and interviews to represent the immense energy and care that Holiff dedicated to successfully managing Cash, as well as the professional disappointment and personal cost that accompanied that undertaking.
Please also see the SpotLight digital exhibit Volatile Attractions: Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash, and Managing a Music Legend.
Image: Saul Holiff and Johnny Cash at a press conference, c. 1970 (Accession Number: 2016-018, File: 1.48)
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