I worked publicity for SXSW for 10 years, and the most enjoyable part of my job was working with the keynote speakers and in 1994 I had the pleasure of working with my favorite, Johnny Cash. In advance of the conference I worked with his assistant, Hugh Waddell and he versed me on all of the pertinent details before their arrival in Austin. Johnny Cash requested a limo to pick him up at the airport with air-conditioning, ice and soft drinks. The limo driver I booked for his arrival and departure was in his 20s and a huge Cash fan. He wanted Cash to autograph his guitar. It was set.
I arrived at the airport and met Hugh in the bar and we enjoyed a drink before Cash’s flight arrived. It was time to meet him at the gate and we proceeded to find the limo driver, who was holding up a sign with Cash's name. I was caught up in the rush of getting him to the limo and to the hotel, but definitely noticed that the limo driver was probably in his 60s and not his 20s.
We got into the limo, which had no air-conditioning, ice or soft drinks. Cash was wearing his standard thick black suit. The drive from Mueller airport to the Four Seasons was the longest drive I've ever experienced. I remember him sitting in the limo, looking out the window the whole time and sweating. He never complained, not once. Somehow, this older gentleman heard that Cash was at the airport, and decided he would pick him up.
Finally, we arrived at the hotel. The driver gave Hugh his card for Cash’s return trip to the airport on Sunday. I was able to tell Hugh the whole story and to please not hire the driver...I already had one for the return trip.
I couldn’t believe that Johnny Cash invited me to go up to his room along with Hugh and especially after the disaster of the ride to the hotel. He was so nice. When I got to the room I called my boss, Roland Swenson, SXSW Managing Director to let him know what had happened. It turns out the young limo driver had called Roland to let him know that Johnny Cash was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Cash was amazing and handled the whole situation with humor and grace. When he departed Austin, the young limo driver had his chance, and did get his guitar signed. This time it worked out!