Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash

THIS DAY IN MUSIC………………………………………..on January 13th of 1968 against the advice of Columbia Records executives, Johnny Cash visits Folsom State Prison in California to record a live album. The resulting LP, “Live At Folsom Prison” would become one of Johnny’s biggest selling records, reaching #1 on the Country album chart and #13 on the Hot 200. It also produced one of his most memorable hit singles, “Folsom Prison Blues”. In 2003, “Live At Folsom Prison” was certified Triple Platinum by the RIAA for sales of over three million and was ranked #88 on Rolling Stone Magazine‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. One of his earliest songs, Cash first recorded this for Sun Records in 1956, but it was the thrilling, electric version recorded live at Folsom Prison in California on January 13, 1968 that came to define his outlaw persona. The Live From Folsom Prison album helped revitalize his career – his last Country chart-topper and Top 40 Hot 100 entry was “Understand Your Man” in 1964. “Folsom Prison Blues” was a #1 Country hit for four weeks and generated a great deal of interest in the rebellious Johnny Cash, who made prison reform his political cause of choice and started regularly performing in jails, doing about 12 shows a year – for free – mostly in Folsom and San Quentin. The most famous line in this song, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” Cash said he wrote while “Trying to think of the worst reason for killing another person.” He added, “It did come to mind quite easily, though.” He came up with the line after watching the 1951 movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison while serving in West Germany with the US Air Force. This is the first song Cash performed at his show where Live From Folsom Prison was recorded. Bob Johnston, famous for his work with Bob Dylan, produced the album and arranged for the prison performance. According to Johnson, he told Cash to “just go out and say who you are” when he took the stage, so Cash opened the set with what became his catch phrase: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” In 1968, Cash won a Grammy award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, for the live version.