During the ’90s, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus was more than your average mullet-rocking one-hit-wonder. Although he’s mostly known for his wildly popular hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart,” he was not without his critics. However, there was one country legend who encouraged him to keep going despite the naysayers.
Before he became known as Miley Cyrus’ dad, Cyrus shook up Nashville’s music row at the start of the ’90s when he released the hit single, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While beloved by many, some traditionalists at the time thought Cyrus strayed too far from the norm. They thought he needed to go back to country music’s roots. Country music fans and critics thought Cyrus needed to be like some classic country’s greats such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and other acts.
Coincidentally, Parton is a longtime family friend of the Cyrus family. She’s also Miley’s godmother, making it odd that she would have a problem with Billy Ray Cyrus’ stylistic choices.
As for the iconic man in black, Johnny Cash even sent Cyrus a hand-written letter after Cyrus released “Achy Breaky Heart.” In the letter, he thanked Cyrus for his Christian testimony and told him to ignore the critics.
“I was very impressed recently to hear you give God the credit for your success,” Cash wrote in a letter dated June 12, 1992. “It’s good to be reminded where all goodness comes from.”
Johnny Cash Compares Billy Ray Cyrus’ Criticism to Another Icon
The letter also likened Cyrus’s backlash to Elvis Presley’s criticism he also received at the start of his career.
“Thirty-six years ago, I was working with Elvis and saw him take the same kind of flak you’re taking now,” Cash wrote. “Congratulations on the way you’re handling it all. In your case, as in Elvis’, the good outweighs the bad. Let ’em have it. I’m in your corner.”
Since receiving the letter, Billy Ray Cyrus has thought fondly of his kind words of encouragement,
“Everything was going crazy, so you can imagine what a letter from Johnny Cash meant to me at the time,” Cyrus once said at a press release for the 20th anniversary of his 1992’s Some Gave All. “I thought, ‘If Johnny Cash says he’s in my corner, then I guess everything’s going to be all right.’ Nothing else mattered.”
Additionally, Billy Ray Cyrus also received kind remarks earlier in his career from another Tennessee rock icon.
“[Carl Perkins] said, ‘Hoss, just do what you do. Make your music, don’t be following anyone who says you have to sound like everyone else. That’s the main thing: Be original,'” Cyrus said in another press release. “Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash told me the same thing. All these years and all this turbulence later, I’m glad I listened.”