johnny cash san quentin flipping bird jim marshall-1

Photographer, Jim Marshall, stated the this shot of Johnny Cash warming up for his 1969 concert at San Quentin Prison is, “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world… There was a TV crew behind me and John was on the side of the stage. I said ‘John, let’s do a shot for the warden.’” Well, that was all the motivation Johnny Cash needed to look straight into Marshall’s lens and emphatically flip him the bird.

johnny cash san quentin prison photo 1

The first prison concert Johnny Cash ever played was at San Quentin back on January 1, 1958. Little did Johnny know that In the audience was a young man from Bakersfield, CA who’d go on to become a Country Music star in his own right with the hit Okie from Muskogee — Merle Haggard. People talk a lot about New Year resolutions, but for Merle this would be the real deal — he decided to straighten out his act, and try to carve out a music career for himself like Johnny Cash. And he did, even appearing later on The Johnny Cash Show twice. Just goes to show that wherever you are, and whatever you’re facing, never stop believing that you can turn things around.

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Shel Silverstein– the late, great, cartoonist, poet, author, playwright, singer, songwriter, musician… photo by Alice Ochs

“Sometimes he wears a beard, and shaves his head.  Sometimes he shaves his beard, and wears his head.

Sometimes he’s writing articles, and drawing cartoons for Playboy magazine.

He’s in Hollywood working on movies.  Sometimes, he’s lonesome.

But wherever he is, he’s the one and only Shel Silverstein–

and one of the most talented guys I’ve ever met.”

–Johnny Cash quoting one of America’s most prolific and revered songwriters, Harlan Howard.

Shel Silverstein– Songs and Stories

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Renowned artist Chris Dent was commissioned to create a jaw-dropping Dunhill-centric cityscape.

In this world of endless blogs, online magazines, and internet noise, comes a refreshing and fascinating brand experience from an iconic English label whose heritage and importance goes largely unnoticed and under-appreciated here in the US– Alfred Dunhill.

DAY 8 is the deliciously Dunhill view of the world around us.  I appreciate their seamless blend of narrated films and curated pictorals with such varying subjects as artist Chris Dent’s Dunhill cityscape, the precision and passion behind their coveted Chassis leather collection, and a tribute to Chris Milk’s global collective art masterpiece, which no surprise I love– The Johnny Cash Project.

Just days old, DAY 8 already delivers the perfect blend of creativity, elegance, travel, culture & intelligence that makes the short list of daily reads.  More so, it reinforces that in the world of luxury, not all brands are created equal.  Those who honor their heritage and allure of the past, and tell it through relevant and innovative design and dialogue, like Dunhill, are rare.  Color me impressed.

The Johnny Cash Project is a global collective art project that you (yes, you)  can participate in.

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“I’ve always been crazy– but it’s kept me from going insane.”

–Waylon Jennings


No one personified the hard-living, honky tonk, maverick life as much as Waylon Jennings did. Born in Littlefield, Texas, in 1937, he played bass with rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly in the 1950s, roomed and misbehaved with Johnny Cash in the 1960s, and had dozens of top-ten hits along the way—including 1978’s “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” But it was as an “Outlaw” that Waylon made his biggest contribution. Along with co-conspirators Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, the Outlaws streamlined arrangements, eschewed clichéd lyrics, and modernized country music by looking back to its soulful roots and mixing in a shot of rock-and-roll.  Waylon Jennings, Performance Center, Cambridge, MA, 1976  –Image by Henry Horenstein


Circa 1974, College Station, TX — Willie Nelson thrills a young crowd 40,000 strong as he opens his ‘July 4th Picnic’ in College Station, Texas. Crowds of over 150,000 were expected during the three day weekend music fest. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS


Circa 1969, Cummins, Arkansas — Singer Johnny Cash as he chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas.  April 10, 1969. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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Steve Earle–  Born 1955 in Virginia, he grew up in and around Texas.  Steve dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and began his pursuit of breakin’ into the music scene, and becoming a real deal singer/songwriter– like his hero Townes Van Zandt, who he was obsessed with.   Steve often tells of being all of 17 years old in 1972, and playing at the Old Quarter in Houston in front of a handful of patrons– one of them being Townes.  He was petrified up there on that tiny stage with Townes Van Zandt, who he still considers the best there ever was, sitting dead in front of him with his moccasins propped up on the stage right at Earle’s feet– and loudly heckling him between songs.  (Steve Earle unabashedly fesses to going out and buying a pair of said moccasins the very next day…) The two became close, and will always be joined in legend and history– it’s flat-out impossible to talk about one without the other.  Steve moved to Nashville (like alot of the songer/songwriters did in the 1970s after Kris Kristofferson had become a big star there) and played bass with another future legend, Guy Clark. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire


Townes Van Zandt– One of the great tragic figures of country music, Fort Worth, Texas, native Townes Van Zandt was a folk singer, songwriter, performer and poet. He was particularly influential in the emergence of alternative country in the nineteen-seventies. Steve Earle described him as the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and his influence was felt by many other artists, including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett. Bob Dylan refers to this Texas native as his favorite songwriter. He wrote hundreds of haunting songs that have been widely recorded, perhaps most notably “Pancho and Lefty” which was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. — 1990 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire


Texans Guy and Susanna Clark, both singer/songwriters, first came to Nashville at the time that same McGuire did, back in 1972.  They became fast friends when McGuire shot the cover photographs for Guy Clark’s first studio album “Old Number One”, which was released by RCA Records in 1975. During the 1970s, when this photograph was taken, the Clark’s Nashville home was a haven for emerging songwriters and musicians. Guy Clark has served as a mentor to many other songwriters, most notably Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, and numerous artists have recorded Guy Clark-penned songs. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire


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In “Walk the Line,” June Carter refers to Johnny Cash’s voice as “Steady like a train, sharp like a razor.”

Amen, sister.  When I think of Johnny, without fail I’ll get an image in my head of an old steam train– big, black, strong & steady.  And of course that classic Cash chicka-boom rhythm sounds just like a trusty ol’ train a rollin’ round the bend, and right on time– so reliable, you could set your watch to it.  Yeah, Johnny Cash sang a lot about trains, prison and hard times– and we all know through his epic lyrics that the beauty of the train is that it represents the freedom of leaving the past behind.  All that crap that you just need to separate yourself from with miles and miles of railroad track and dust. A new start, a second chance.

There’s also something lonely and soulful about a train ride– staring out as the barren landscape goes drifting by.  It’s just you and that train.  It holds you there firmly, with nothin’ to distract you from who and what you’re leaving behind– as the soothing click of the rails beneath your feet reminds you that soon it’ll all be long gone.

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Johnny Cash at San Quentin

1968, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison., 1968.

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.



Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.


johnny cash folsom prison

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, 1968.

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Johnny Cash Martin Guitar

Johnny Cash struttin’ his stuff, jammin’ on his Martin guitar, CA. 1959.


Now Johnny Cash’s life wasn’t exactly a cakewalk back in the day. Johnny was touring like a banshee —  the marriage was crumbling — they (he and first wife Vivian) had 4 baby girls to take care of — he was partying like a fiend — he and his badass buddies, like Waylon Jennings, were taking every pill there was — he gets busted in El Paso for possession — you get the picture, the guy lived hard. Yet, looking at these pictures, he looks simply amazing. Cash’s style during this time, with his tight, slicked back hair and crisp, clean tailoring look unbelievable compared to the 1970s ‘bigger is better’ looks that were to follow. I will say though that once you get to 1965-66 — well, you can see that the effects are definitely starting to show on Johnny’s face. All in all though, he had an amazing run even with all the crap going on, until it eventually caught up with him — and it always does.  God bless Johnny Cash.


Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash and his awesome custom Gibson with his name inlayed in the fingerboard.

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American Icons – Johnny Cash & Martin Guitars.

Country/Western singer Johnny Cash in recording studio.  Nashville, TN 1969

Johnny Cash is as real as they come, brother.  I feel sorry for poor lil’ Juaqiem Phoenix – trying to fill those big (white) shoes on screen.  The hard livin’, honky tonkin’, God lovin’ man in black.  God rest his soul.

The Legendary D45 by C. F. Martin & Co.

C.F. Martin & Co. have been making top quality guitars since 1796, and are still family owned and operated out of Nazareth, PA.  Martin is truly a guitar with few rivals in terms of quality, tone and boom- played by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Guy Clark and many other music legends.  Martin is probably best known for their D-45 Dreadnought model (a little wider body and more squared shoulder), first crafted for Gene Autry in 1933.  In my book, both Johnny and Martin are true American Icons.

Link to Martin D45


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