YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH CASH | JOHNNY AT FOLSOM PRISON 1968

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Johnny Cash at San Quentin

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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Let’s just finish out this week with Johnny Cash — if that’s alright with y’all?  Never can have to much of a good thing — and it just don’t get any better than this in my book.

It was 1968, and Johnny Cash was finally at a place in life where he was able to get a grip on his drug addictions — with the love and support of his wife June.  Johnny had always wanted to perform at Folsom — ever since he first recorded the tune Folsom Prison Blues back in 1957 for Sun Records.  After years of delays caused by management changes at  Johnny’s record label, and battles with his own personal demons, the time was finally right.

Backed by the legendary Carl Perkins, the Tennessee Three, not to mention June Carter Cash (a musical dynamo in her own right ), Johnny and company set out to California’s Folsom Prison to put on one helluva show (two shows actually) for the penned-up boys in blue.  The resulting live album At Folsom Prison was a huge success that reignited Johnny Cash’s career, and is an enduring classic that is hands-down required listening for all Johnny Cash, American Roots, and Country Western music fans.

From the moment you hear that “Hello — I’m Johnny Cash” and that guitar — you’re flat hooked, brother.

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Johhny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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johnny cash folsom prison

Johhny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison, 1968.

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Johnny Cash At San Quentin Prison

Johnny Cash performing onstage at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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From Inside Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison–

At Folsom Prison in 1968, Johnny Cash gave a concert that would later famously give his fans a peek inside prison walls.

Gene Beley was at the prison the day the record, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, was made. A friend had invited the young Ventura Star Free Press reporter to the concert, and Beley decided to bring along a tape recorder.

Beley’s recording is familiar, but it’s from an entirely new perspective: that of the audience. In an excerpt from his essay about the event, published this fall in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Beley recalls the night before the concert:

We arrived at the El Rancho Motel and checked in. Cash was nervous about the weather in Nashville. He feared that the snow and ice would make it impossible for Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, the Tennessee Three, and Columbia’s A&R man, Bob Johnston, to fly to Sacramento. So he called Nashville and found they had left and were laid over in San Francisco. While waiting for the others, we all met in one of our rooms. Reverend Gressett said he had a favor to ask of John.

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Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Reverend Gresset

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison with the Reverend Gressett, 1968.

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Johnny Cash Folsom Prison

Johnny cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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“Johnny, I want you to hear a song written by Glen Sherley, an inmate in Folsom, serving five to life for armed robbery. You’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about it but I thought if you could mention tomorrow that you’ve heard the tape, it would please that ol’ boy who wrote it.”

“Does anyone have a tape recorder?” Cash asked.

“I do,” I replied, and went to get the reel-to-reel Sony recorder that I had brought to record the concert for research purposes.

“All right, this is a take on ‘Greystone Chapel,'” a deep voice, similar to Cash’s own voice, said on the tape. Then the singing began:

Inside the walls of prison, my body may be,

But the Lord has set my soul free…

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Johnny Cash Folsom Prison 1968

Johhny Cash playing at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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Johnny Cash finger

Famous shot of Johnny Cash flipping the bird — the night before the Folsom Prison show in his blue jumpsuit and cowboy boots, 1968.

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As the lyrics filled the room, accompanied by a bass beat from the prisoner’s guitar, Cash’s usual straight-faced, deep-creased cheeks began changing to a smile, with his eyes glowing, radiating enthusiasm.

There’s a Greystone chapel here at Folsom,

A house of worship in this den of sin.

You wouldn’t think God had a place at Folsom,

But he’s saved the soul of many lost men.

When the tape was finished, Cash said, “This has got to be recorded as a single, and I want to record it tomorrow on the album during the show.” Cash began scribbling the words down in a notebook and tried singing the phrase, while beating out the rhythm with one hand on his knee, the other hand tapping a pen on the desk.

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johnny cash june carter folsom prison

Johnny Cash and June Carter at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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johnny cash folsom prison

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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That evening Cash was dressed in a blue jumpsuit and cowboy boots when his A&R man Bob Johnston and the other performers arrived.

“Do you ever work on a stool?” Johnston asked Cash.

“Yes, that’s what I plan to do,” Cash said.

“Are you going to have someone introduce you?”

“I thought I’d come out and introduce myself and sing.”

“Great!” exclaimed Johnston. “Come out and say, ‘I’m Johnny Cash!’ They’ll go wild!”

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Johnny Cash Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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Here’s Johnny performing the classic Folsom Prison Blues on his 1970’s variety show–

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OK, I can’t resist.  Here’s another classic A Boy Named Sue, this one live from San Quentin–

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14 thoughts on “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH CASH | JOHNNY AT FOLSOM PRISON 1968

  1. Pingback: YOU LOOK SO MONEY — JOHNNY CASH | SLICKED BACK STYLE OF THE ’50s & ’60s « The Selvedge Yard

  2. Man, we got a week with two helpings of Cash and a Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke retrospective. This is one of my favorite daily reads, keep up the good work.

  3. Every time I go see Hank III he sings Cocaine Blues and mentions Johnny Cash. If you don’t know, Hank 3 is the son of Hank Williams Jr. and the Grandson of Hank Williams. He looks and sounds like his grandpa and Minnie Pearl saw him and said he was a ghost of his granddad. Thanks for the post. Keep up the great work.

  4. Pingback: LADIES LOVE OUTLAWS | WAYLON, WILLIE, JOHNNY, KRIS & COMPANY « The Selvedge Yard

  5. Great pics of Johnny!

    Dale, they call Hank III “Tri-cephus” (son of Bo-cephus) here in TX. Cracks me up every time. Do they call him that everywhere, or am I prematurely claiming this witticism as Texan?

  6. Pingback: Roland Sands Johnny Cash Bike | Bike EXIF | Classic motorcycles, custom motorcycles and cafe racers

  7. Pingback: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA & GOD BLESS JOHNNY CASH « The Selvedge Yard

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