Here's the quick setup: JOHNNY CASH is broke, married and desperate. His dream is to play music. He gets a chance to play a song for well known producer SAM PHILLIPS. He starts playing one. But Sam stops him only a few verses in. Johnny is defensive at first, but Sam gives Johnny a reality check that will change his life forever.
SAM: We've already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just like how you sing it.
JOHNNY: Well, you didn't let us bring it home.
SAM: Bring it home? All right, let's bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had one time to sing one song. One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it's real, and how you're gonna shout it? Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' you felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain't got nothin' to do with believin' in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin' in yourself.
JOHNNY: I got a couple of songs I wrote in the Air Force. You got anything against the Air Force?
JOHNNY: I do.
The rest is history.