The Day Johnny Cash Went To Prison

Johnny Cash

From Minster FM.


Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash walked through the gates of Folsom Prison. Not because he’d shot a man, but because others might have.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” his deep and playful voice whispers at the start of the live recording, preluding the opening notes of one of his most famous songs.

That moment – Cash standing guitar in hand in front of the prison cafeteria – would later be seen as a turning point in both his career and his life.

Of all the great records released in the Sixties, from The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper to Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison remains to this day the most personal and most mythologised.

Perhaps because Cash was such a mythical character himself – The Man In Black, the pilgrim, the preacher.

“A walking contradiction” was the agreed epitaph. And it suited him.

Cash toured in prisons but was never sentenced, it took him half his life before he walked the line.

He was his own man, never mincing his words or minding his actions. Struggling with drugs and women, he cultivated an outlaw image which ultimately helped him revive his career and turn his life around.

The flipping point, music historians would agree, was 13 January 1968, when Columbia Records finally let him record live inside a California jail.


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