January 13, 1968 ~ Backed by June, Carl Perkins and The Tennessee Three, Johnny Cash performs at Folsom Prison before 2000 inmates.
The Man In Black plays two shows for inmates at Folsom Prison in California. Unlike his previous prison concerts, they are recorded and packaged into his acclaimed live album “At Folsom Prison.”
Cash had been playing prisons since 1957 and had become an advocate for reform. He had never recorded one of his penitentiary shows, as his label, Columbia Records, didn’t like the idea of their artist being associated with a jail.
“At Folsom Prison” lands at #1 on the Country chart and got Cash his own TV series the following year. He cites it as one of his greatest accomplishments, as it helps draw attention to the plight of prisoners.
January 1, 1958. Cash’s first concert at San Quentin prison. Can’t see him but in the crowd is a 19 year old serving time for grand theft auto and armed robbery. His name was Merle Haggard.
Cash did his first prison concert in 1957, when he played Huntsville State Prison in Texas. While he never served time, Cash felt a bond with inmates, who he knew were often subjected to inhumane treatment. “I don’t see why a man, just because he’s behind bars, should be denied entertainment,” he said. “I can’t see how the prison system is a good thing. It destroys a man’s soul and often he comes out worse than when he went in.”
At this San Quentin show, a young Merle Haggard is captivated. “He had the right attitude,” Haggard says of Cash. “He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards – he did everything the prisoners wanted to do.”
Cash keeps playing prisons, including another New Year’s Day show at San Quentin the following year. In 1968, in need of a career boost, Cash records his show at Folsom Prison in California. The resulting live album revives his career and puts him back in the public eye. In 1969, he even gets his own TV series, The Johnny Cash Show.
One of his guests the first season: Merle Haggard.
November 5, 1996 ~ Johnny Cash releases the second of his American recordings
Unchained, also known as “American II: Unchained”, is the second album in Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series (and his 82nd overall). Like all Cash’s albums for American, “Unchained” was produced by Rick Rubin.
Sheryl Crow releases her sophmore album — and my favorite — on September 24, 1996.
Unlike her debut album, this one is all hers — written and produced by her and her alone.
It includes “Redemption Day,” a song that Johnny Cash took a fancy to and recorded just before he passed away. Sheryl included it on her latest release, “Threads” as a duet and it’s a damn show-stopper.
Can you believe there are unreleased Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash duets out there in the world? Well, there are. Dylan and Cash, two of the all-time great icons of American music, were friends and mutual admirers, and they liked playing music together, but we don’t have too much record of it.
At its heart, country is the music of inclusion and universality, and there must be an open door–and open ears and hearts–for artists who don’t look like Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams. Country is songs with stories for everyone, our life experience played out in 3½ minutes. Complexity is country’s friend, not its enemy, and more people need to realize that.
A new destination for country music fans in Nashville’s downtown district has opened in the form of Johnny Cash’s Kitchen & Saloon. Cash’s son John Carter Cash and Carlene Carter, his stepdaughter by his wife June Carter Cash, were among those performing at the spot’s 31 July opening.