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At Massey Energy, Cash Walked the Company Line

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The movie, roughly 20 minutes long, welcomes Massey coal miners to the company. The video opens with Cash singing a song the company wrote for him. "He wakes up in the morning as the sun begins to rise / He gazes out the window at the clear blue mountain sky / But only for a moment, stares to marvel at the view / Cause deep inside he knows that there's a job he's got to do."

Cash narrates footage of coal being processed, explains coal's role in the global economy and briefly outlines the company health benefits. Dressed in a black shirt and pants with a silver belt buckle, Cash tells the camera: "It costs more to provide really good benefits. But if someone does a good job, they deserve to be rewarded for it."

Lou Robin, Cash's manager since 1969 when he helped organize his legendary concert at the San Quentin prison in California (Robin now manages Cash's estate), says Cash agreed to do the movie for Massey because he enjoyed helping American workers.

Throughout his career Cash did commercials for companies including Coca-Cola, Sony and Choice Hotels. In the 1970s he did commercials for Exxon, but stopped during the oil crisis because he was unhappy with how fuel rationing was affecting "average Americans," Robin says. "He was the champion of the average working man 'cause that's how he started."

Cash categorically refused to work for alcohol or tobacco companies. "He didn't want to be helping selling his earlier problems," Robin says, referring to the drug addiction that plagued Cash's early career before he married his second wife, June Carter Cash. (A country singer herself, June Carter attended John Marshall High School while her family worked for Richmond radio station WRVA in 1943.)

Massey has since retired the Cash video and is producing a new one that NASCAR driver Kyle Petty will narrate. "It's very similar in terms of what was happening then and what's happening now for energy issues," says John Poma, Massey's vice-president of human resources. "We were coming out of an energy crisis at the end of the 70s and with gas prices now, it's similar." Poma helped update the songs and the script, but says the overall tone hasn't changed much.

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," isn't in the intro anymore. — Amy Biegelsen



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