Johnny Cash plays a legendary live concert at the Folsom State Prison on this day in 1968

The concert and subsequent record release of it revitalized Cash’s career

Johnny Cash plays a legendary live concert at the Folsom State Prison on this day in 1968

After his 1955 song “Folsom Prison Blues”, Johnny Cash had been interested in recording a performance at a prison. His idea was put on hold until 1967, when personnel changes at Columbia Records put Bob Johnston in charge of producing Cash’s material. Cash had recently controlled his drug abuse problems, and was looking to turn his career around after several years of limited commercial success. Backed with June Carter, Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three, Cash performed two shows at Folsom State Prison in California on January 13, 1968. The resulting album consisted of fifteen tracks from the first show and two tracks from the second. On January 13, the group traveled to Folsom, meeting Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn and Columbia photographer Jim Marshall, who were hired to document the album for the liner notes.[ Cash decided to hold two performances on January 13, one at 9:40 AM and one at 12:40 PM, in case the first performance was unsatisfactory. He opened both shows with a rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues”, followed by many songs about prison, including “The Wall”, “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “25 Minutes to Go”. Cash also included other songs of despair, such as the Merle Travis song “Dark as a Dungeon”. Following “Orange Blossom Special”, Cash included a few “slow, ballad-type songs”, including “Send a Picture of Mother” and “The Long Black Veil”, followed by three novelty songs from his album Everybody Loves A Nut: “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog”, “Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart”, and “Joe Bean”. June Carter joined Cash to perform a pair of duets. The album release of “At Folsom Prison” in May 1968 was prepared in four months and it’s success revitalized Cash’s career. Cash got back to play concerts in prison and on February 24th, 1969 he played also at the famous San Quentin, California.

Watch footage of Johnny Cash performing “Folsom Prison Blues” live at San Quentin Prison, 1969

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