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Promoter Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash's Manager, Dead At 80

NANAIMO, British Columbia (AP) — Saul Israel Holiff, a former concert promoter and Johnny Cash's manager for 17 years, has died at age 80.

Holiff, who also managed Tommy Hunter and the Statler Brothers, died Thursday at his home in this Vancouver Island town after years of declining health, friends and relatives said.

He grew up in London, Ontario, dropped out of high school at age 15, served as a rear air gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, had a fruit and vegetable business and dabbled in acting before becoming a concert promoter and manager with offices in his home town, Los Angeles and Nashville, Tenn.

Holiff began working as Cash's manager in about 1960.

"He didn't start out to be Johnny Cash," he recalled in an interview after Cash died in 2003. "Sometimes he sang dreadfully, if he had too much to drink or too many pills. We were treated with casual indifference for much of the time for a long time."

Then, as Cash's material evolved, he said, "suddenly he was another American hero."

In 1970, RPM weekly magazine presented Holiff with a special award as the Canadian music industry's man of the year.

A year later, after representing the Tommy Hunter show for five years, Holiff severed his ties with the hugely popular CBC show and the star, considered the top TV personality in Canada at the time, saying his work for Cash didn't leave enough time to work with them too.

Holiff quit as Cash's manager in 1973, when he thought the Man in Black's career had peaked.

"I was guilty for underestimating him repeatedly," he said.

After leaving Cash, Holiff retired from show business and enrolled at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, where he earned a bachelor's degree in history.

Survivors include his wife of more than 40 years, Barbara; brother Morris of Scottsdale, Ariz.; sons Jonathan of Los Angeles and Joshua of Whitehorse, Yukon, and a granddaughter. At Holiff's request no funeral service is planned.