The most influential group in country music history, the Carter Family switched the emphasis from hillbilly instrumentals to vocals, made scores of their songs part of the standard country music canon, and made a style of guitar playing, “Carter picking,” the dominant technique for decades. Along with Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family were among the first country music stars. Comprised of a gaunt, shy gospel quartet member named Alvin P. Carter and two reserved country girls — his wife, Sara, and their sister-in-law, Maybelle — the Carter Family sang a pure, simple harmony that influenced not only the numerous other family groups of the ’30s and the ’40s, but folk, bluegrass, and rock musicians like Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, the Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris, to mention just a few.
It’s unlikely that bluegrass music would have existed without the Carter Family. A.P., the family patriarch, collected hundreds of British/Appalachian folk songs and, in arranging these for recording, enhanced the pure beauty of these “facts-of-life tunes” and at the same time saved them for future generations. Those hundreds of songs the trio members found around their Virginia and Tennessee homes, after being sung by A.P., Sara, and Maybelle, became Carter songs, even though these were folk songs and in the public domain. Among the more than 300 sides they recorded are “Worried Man Blues,” “Wabash Cannonball,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
The Carter Family’s instrumental backup, like their vocals, was unique. On her Gibson L-5 guitar, Maybelle played a bass-strings lead (the guitar being tuned down from the standard pitch) that is the mainstay of bluegrass guitarists to the present. Sara accompanied her on the autoharp or on a second guitar, while A.P. devoted his talent to singing in a haunting though idiosyncratic bass or baritone. Although the original Carter Family disbanded in 1943, enough of their recordings remained in the vaults to keep the group current through the ’40s. Furthermore, their influence was evident through further generations of musicians, in all forms of popular music, through the end of the century.
Initially, the Carter Family consisted of just A.P. and Sara. Born and raised in the Clinch Mountains of Virginia, A.P. (b. Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter, December 15, 1891; d. November 7, 1960) learned to play fiddle as a child, with his mother teaching him several traditional and old-time songs; his father had played violin as a young man, but abandoned the instrument once he married. Once he became an adult, he began singing with two uncles and his older sister in a gospel quartet, but he became restless and soon moved to Indiana, where he worked on the railroad. By 1911, he had returned to Virginia, where he sold fruit trees and wrote songs in his spare time.
While he was traveling and selling trees, he met Sara (b. Sara Dougherty, July 21, 1898; d. January 8, 1979). According to legend, she was on her porch playing the autoharp and singing “Engine 143” when he met her. Like A.P., Sara learned how to sing and play through her family. As a child, she learned a variety of instruments, including autoharp, guitar, and banjo, and she played with her friends and cousins.
A.P. and Sara fell in love and married on June 18, 1915, settling in Maces Springs, where he worked various jobs while the two of them sang at local parties, socials, and gatherings. For the next 11 years, they played locally. During that time, the duo auditioned for Brunswick Records, but the label was only willing to sign A.P. and only if he recorded fiddle dance songs under the name Fiddlin’ Doc; he rejected their offer, believing that it was against his parents’ religious beliefs.
Eventually, Maybelle Carter (b. Maybelle Addington, May 10, 1909; d. October 23, 1978) — who had married A.P.’s brother Ezra — began singing and playing guitar with Sara and A.P. Following Maybelle’s addition to the Carter Family in 1926, the group began auditioning at labels in earnest. In 1927, the group auditioned for Ralph Peer, a New York-based A&R man for Victor Records who was scouting for local talent in Bristol, TN. The Carters recorded six tracks, including “The Wandering Boy” and “Single Girl, Married Girl.” Victor released several of the songs as singles, and when the records sold well, the label offered the group a long-range contract.
The Carter Family signed with Victor in 1928, and over the next seven years the group recorded most of its most famous songs, including “Wabash Cannonball,” “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” “John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Keep on the Sunny Side,” which became the Carters’ signature song. By the end of the ’20s, the group had become a well-known national act, but its income was hurt considerably by the Great Depression. Because of the financial crisis, the Carters were unable to play concerts in cities across the U.S. and were stuck playing schoolhouses in Virginia. Eventually, all of the members became so strapped for cash they had to move away from home to find work. In 1929, A.P. moved to Detroit temporarily while Maybelle and her husband relocated to Washington, D.C.
In addition to the stress of the Great Depression, A.P. and Sara’s marriage began to fray, and the couple separated in 1932. For the next few years, the Carters only saw each other at recording sessions, partially because the Depression had cut into the country audience and partially because the women were raising their families. In 1935, the Carters left Victor for ARC, where they re-recorded their most famous songs. The following year, they signed to Decca.
Eventually, the group signed a lucrative radio contract with XERF in Del Rio, TX, which led to contracts at a few other stations along the Mexican and Texas border. Because of their locations, these stations could broadcast at levels that were far stronger than other American radio stations, so the Carters’ radio performances could be heard throughout the nation, either in their live form or as radio transcriptions. As a result, the band’s popularity increased dramatically, and their Decca records became extremely popular.
Just as their career was back in full swing, Sara and A.P.’s marriage fell apart, with the couple divorcing in 1939. Nevertheless, the Carter Family continued to perform, remaining in Texas until 1941, when they moved to a radio station in Charlotte, NC. During the early ’40s, the band briefly recorded for Columbia before re-signing with Victor in 1941. Two years later, Sara decided to retire and move out to California with her new husband, Coy Bayes (who was A.P.’s cousin), while A.P. moved back to Virginia, where he ran a country store. Maybelle Carter began recording and touring with her daughters, Helen, June, and Anita.
A.P. and Sara re-formed the Carter Family with their grown children in 1952, performing a concert in Maces Spring. Following the successful concert, the Kentucky-based Acme signed A.P., Sara, and their daughter Janette to a contract, and over the next four years they recorded nearly 100 songs that didn’t gain much attention at the time. In 1956, the Carter Family disbanded for the second time. Four years later, A.P. died at his Maces Spring home. Following his death, the Carter Family’s original recordings began to be reissued. In 1966, Maybelle persuaded Sara to reunite to play a number of folk festivals and record an album for Columbia. In 1970, the Carter Family became the first group to be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is a fitting tribute to their immense influence and legacy. ~ David Vinopal, Rovi
He’s the Man in Black. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 Johnny Cash songs. Special thanks to our users Sam Ricketts, ramondo elderli, Charlie Rainger, happychaosofthenorth, Philip Folta, Charlie Rainger, Justin Kennon, Al Bebak and Jack Morris for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.com/suggest!
Johnny Cash’s last interview final ‘I Expect My Life To End Soon’
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, was a singer, guitarist and songwriter whose music innovatively mixed country, rock, blues and gospel influences.
Born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas, Johnny Cash joined the Air Force in 1950 and trained in Texas where he met his first wife. After his service and discharge, he formed a band and landed a record deal. By the early 1960s, he was a musical superstar, known for his innovative hit songs with gospel undertones, such as with hit songs like. In 1967, he married June Carter. He recorded his last track of his final album a week before his death in 2003.
Singer and songwriter Johnny Cash was born John R. Cash on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Arkansas. The son of poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers, Cash, one of seven children born to Ray and Carrie Rivers Cash, moved with his family at the age of 3 to Dyess, Arkansas, so that his father could take advantage of the New Deal farming programs instituted by President Roosevelt. There, the Cash clan lived in a five-room house and farmed 20 acres of cotton and other seasonal crops.
John, or J.R. as he was known to those close to him, spent the bulk of the next 15 years out in the fields, working alongside his parents and brothers and sisters. It wasn’t always an easy life, Cash would later recall. At the age of 10 he was hauling water for a road gang and at 12 years old he moving large sacks of cotton.
“The entire family, my parents, two brothers and two sisters spent the first night in the truck under a tarpaulin” Cash once said about his family’s move to Dyess. “The last thing I remember before going to sleep was my mother beating time on the old Sears-Roebuck guitar, singing ‘What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul.”
Music was indeed one of the ways the Cash family found escape from some of the hardship. Songs surrounded the young Johnny Cash, be it his mother’s folk and hymn ballads, or the working music people sang out in the fields.
From an early age Cash, who first picked up the guitar at the age of 12, showed a love for the music that enveloped his life. Perhaps sensing that her boy had a gift for song, Carrie Rivers Cash scraped together enough money so that Johnny could take singing lessons. Cash was only in his early teens and didn’t have much in the way of formal musical training, but after just three lessons his teacher, enthralled with Cash’s already unique singing style, told him to stop taking lessons and to never deviate from his natural voice.
Religion, too, had a strong impact on Cash’s childhood. His mother was a devout member of the Pentacostal Church of God, and his older brother Jack seemed committed to joining the priesthood. Chances are John’s own faith would have always exerted itself to some degree on his own life, but Jack’s tragic death in 1944 at the age of 14 in a farming accident solidified Cash’s own faith in God.
These things, his farming life and his family’s religion, were never strayed too far from in Cash’s career. The evidence of this can be seen in songs like “Pickin’ Time” and “Five Feet High,” a film he made about his visit to Israel and his close relationship with evangelist Billy Graham.
Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two
In 1950, Cash graduated high school and left Arkansas for Pontiac, Michigan, where he found work sweeping floors at an auto plant. The employment and Cash’s time in Michigan were short lived, however, and about a month after taking the job, he bolted for the U.S. Air Force. As a military man, Cash did his basic training in Texas, where met Vivian Liberto, whom he’d eventually marry and father four daughters with. For the bulk of his four years in the Air Force, Cash was stationed in Landsberg, West Germany, where he worked as a radio intercept officer, eavesdropping on Soviet radio traffic.
It was also in Germany that Cash began to turn more of his attention toward music. With a few of his Air Force buddies he formed the Landsberg Barbarians, giving Johnny a chance to play live shows, teach himself more of the guitar, and also take a shot at songwriting. “We were terrible,” he said later, “but that Lowenbrau beer will make you feel like you’re great. We’d take our instruments to these honky-tonks and play until they threw us out or a fight started. I wrote ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in Germany in 1953.”
After his discharge in 1954, Cash settled in Memphis, Tennessee, where he married Vivian and worked, as best he could, as an appliance salesman. Pursuing music on the side, Cash teamed up with a couple of mechanics, Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins, who worked with Johnny’s older brother Roy. The young musicians soon formed a tight bond, with the crew and their wives often heading over to Luther’s house on Friday nights to play music, much of it gospel.
Cash, who banged away on an old $5 guitar he’d purchased in Germany, was the front-man for what became known as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. Their sound was a synthesis of blues and country-and-western music, which was coined “rockabilly” by those in the record industry. (In 1960, with the addition of drummer W.S. Holland, the group was later named Tennessee Three.) “He was a decent singer, not a great one,” wrote Marshall Grant, in his 2006 autobiography, I Was There When it Happened: My Life with Johnny Cash. “But there was power and presence in his voice.”
The Million Dollar Quartet
In July 1954, another Memphis musician, Elvis Presley, cut his first record, sparking a wave of not only Elvis-mania but an interest in the local producer, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, who had issued the record. Later that same year Cash, Grant and Perkins made an unannounced visit to Sun to ask Phillips for an audition. The Sun Records owner gave in and Cash and the boys returned to Sun in late 1954. At the audition Phillips liked their sound but not their gospel driven song choices, which he felt would have a limited market.
Phillips was looking for new material and encouraged the group to return with an original song. In early 1955, Cash and his group did just that, recording the song “Hey Porter,” which Cash wrote just a week after that first Sun session. While met with mediocre reviews, Cash’s second release, “Cry, Cry, Cry” later that year peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard charts. Other hits soon followed, including a pair of Top 10 singles in “So Doggone Lonesome” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” But true fame arrived in 1956, when Cash wrote and released “I Walk The Line,” which catapulted to No. 1 and sold 2 million copies.
The success and his association with Phillips allowed Cash to join an elite group of artists that included Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis—they were known as “The Million Dollar Quartet.” In 1957 Cash, now the father of two young daughters (Roseanne and Kathy) released his debut album, Johnny Cash with His Hot & Blue Guitar.
Drugs and Divorce
By the early 1960s, Johnny Cash, who had relocated his family to Ventura, California, and left Sun for Columbia Records in 1958, was a musical superstar. With an unrelenting tour schedule, Cash was on the road 300 nights a year, barnstorming the country with a barrage of popular hits including Ring of Fire (1963) and Understand Your Man (1964). He also appeared regularly on the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts.
But the schedule and the pressures that faced him took a toll on his personal life. Drugs and alcohol were frequent tour companions while Vivian, left home to take care of their young family, which now included Cindy (b. 1959) and Tara (b. 1961) grew increasingly frustrated with her husband’s absence.
In 1966 Vivian finally filed for divorce. Cash returned to Memphis, where his life continued to spiral out of control. The following year, after a serious drug binge, Cash was discovered in a near-death state by a policeman in a small village in Georgia. There were other incidents, too, including an arrest for smuggling amphetamines into the US across the Mexican border, and accidently starting a forest fire in Tennessee, which resulted in a near six-figure fine for the singer. “I took all the drugs there are to take, and I drank,” Cash recalled. “Everybody said that Johnny Cash was through ’cause I was walkin’ around town 150 pounds. I looked like walking death.”
June Carter and Rehab
The turning point came in 1967, when he met singer-songwriter June Carter, a member of the founding family of country music. Carter, who first befriended and then, in 1968, married Cash, stepped in and helped him clean up his life. With Carter’s support, Cash kicked his drug habit and became a devout Christian fundamentalist.With his new wife, Cash embarked on a remarkable turn around. In 1969, he began hosting The Johnny Cash Show, a TV variety series that showcased contemporary musicians ranging from Bob Dylan to Louis Armstrong. It also provided a forum for Cash to explore a number of social issues, too, tackling discussions that ranged from the war in Vietnam to prison reform to the rights of Native Americans.
The same year his show debuted, Cash also took home two Grammy Awards for the live album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968). The album was a critical and commercial success and reached Gold record status by December 1969. Four months later Cash and Carter celebrated the birth of their first and only child, John Carter Cash, in March 1970.
The ensuing decade offered up more success for the artist, with Cash’s music career flourishing with the release of the hit singles “A Thing Called Love” (1972) and “One Piece at a Time” (1976). He crossed over into a new medium in 1972, when he made an acclaimed appearance with Kirk Douglas in the movie, A Gunfight. In addition, he wrote the scores for the feature Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970) and the TV movie The Pride of Jesse Hallam(1980). In 1975, he published a bestselling autobiography Man in Black.
For the rest of the 1970s and through the 1980s and the early 1990s, while not producing the frequent run of hits that he once had, Cash continued to maintain a busy schedule. In 1980, Cash was accepted as the youngest member of the Country Music Association Hall of Fame.
Increasingly, Cash also teamed up with other musicians. In 1987, Cash banded with former Sun Records’ artists Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison to record the widely popular compilation The Class Of ’55. For the album The Highwayman (1985), Cash collaborated with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. Billed as the Highwaymen, the quartet consistently toured throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, releasing two more records, The Highwayman 2 (1990) and The Road Goes on Forever (1995). In the early part of the 1990s, Cash stepped into the studio with U2 to record The Wanderer, a track that would appear on the group’s 1993 release, Zooropa.
Throughout this time, though, Cash’s health problems and his continued battles with addiction, were nearby. In 1983, he underwent abdominal surgery in Nashville to correct the problems caused by his years of amphetamine use. Following the operation, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic. In 1987, Cash again went under the knife, this time for heart surgery following his collapse on tour in Iowa.
But like always Cash pushed on. Not long after his induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, the singer took the stage for the Lollapalooza alternative rock tour and then teamed up with music producer Rick Rubin. The latter move proved to be instrumental in forging a Johnny Cash renaissance.
Under Rubin, Cash released American Recordings in 1994, a 13-track acoustic album that mixed traditional ballads with modern compositions. The album earned Cash a new audience and a 1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Cash’s next compilation was a three-disc set appropriately titled Love, God, Murder (2000).
Final YearsIn 2002 Cash released American IV: The Man Comes Around, a mix of originals and covers including songs from Beatles to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The album, recorded in cabin on the singer’s Nashville estate, was the fourth Cash-Rubin compilation. More significantly, it came five years after the singer had announced he’d been diagnosed with a rare nervous-system disorder called Shy-Drager Syndrome.
Over the next year, Cash’s health continued to decline. He rarely made public appearances. Then in May 2003, June Carter died. Cash, though, continued to work. With Rubin at his side, the singer sat down to record what would be known as American V: A Hundred Highways. Just week before his death on September 12, 2003, from complications associated with diabetes, Cash wrapped up his final track. “Once June passed, he had the will to live long enough to record, but that was pretty much all,” Rubin recalled around the album’s release on July 4, 2004. “A day after June passed, he said, ‘I need to have something to do every day. Otherwise, there’s no reason for me to be here.'”
Starkly arranged and sometimes mournful, the songs highlighted Cash’s older and rougher sounding voice, which resonated with a raw honesty. Cash earned a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video forGod’s Gonna Cut You Down. He was also posthumously honored at the CMA annual awards in late 2003, winning best album for American IV, best single, and best video.
Not surprisingly, Cash’s life and music continues to resonate. In 2005, the story of his love affair with June Cash was made into a feature film, Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. In 2006, a two-CD collection of unearthed songs from an obscure recording session Cash did in 1973 was released. And the following year the community of Starkville, Mississippi, paid honor to the performer and his arrest there in 1965 for picking flowers with the Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival. Cash was also issued an official pardon.
“I think he’ll be remembered for the way he grew as a person and an artist,” wrote Kris Kristofferson in 2004, upon Cash’s selection by Rolling Stonemagazine as the 31st greatest artist of all time. “He went from being this guy who was as wild as Hank Williams to being almost as respected as one of the fathers of our country. He was friends with presidents and with Billy Graham. You felt like he should’ve had his face on Mount Rushmore.”
In December 2013, it was revealed that a new album from Cash had been found. The album, Out Among the Stars, was discovered by John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son. Billy Sherrill produced the album, which was recorded in 1981 and 1984 and was never released by Columbia Records, Cash’s label at the time. The album was stored by Johnny Cash and his wife June Cash. The album received a release date of March 24, 2014.
When he was 18 years old, self-taught photographer Mike Brodie decided to leave his home in Arizona and travel across the country for 4 years, hopping from train to train. Along his travels, he met numerous people riding the rails (like himself at the time) and vagabonds whose lifestyles, though unorthodox, are incredibly interesting to view through his lens.
This time in Brodie’s life documents a subculture of youths who have opted to lead a life of poverty with the promise of adventure. Altogether, the images reveal an unusual balance of struggles and freedom. Thought Brodie no longer practices photography nor ever really considered himself a real photographer, a collection of his work has been published in a book titled A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.
To learn more about Brodie and his work, be sure to check out his website.
Johnny Cash was one of country music’s first “outlaws,” but the music industry was still surprised in 1957 when he played a concert at Huntsville State Prison in Texas. Over the next decade, Cash performed over 30 prison shows and recorded albums during at least three of them. (The shows at California’s Folsom Prison and San Quentin became the most famous). Here are ten little-known facts about the Man in Black’s prison concerts.
1. Columbia Records repeatedly rejected Cash’s requests to record a prison concert.
Cash started playing at prisons in response to fan mail from inmates who identified with his songs (especially “Folsom Prison Blues”). Soon he discovered that “prisoners are the greatest audience that an entertainer can perform for. We bring them a ray of sunshine into their dungeon, and they’re not ashamed to respond and show their appreciation.” He suspected that their excitement and gratitude combined with the thrill of performing in a dangerous venue would create the perfect setting for an album. His record company disagreed -they thought the concerts would kill Cash’s career and hurt the label’s image. But when Columbia brought on producer Bob Johnston -known for being a bit wild himself and for bucking authority (as well as producing for Bob Dylan)- that stance changed. Johnston readily approved the country star’s idea.
Columbia remained tight-lipped about the performance and the release of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968, still believing the album would never sell. But it did… an incredible 500,000 copies in one year. Sales were boosted by Cash’s tough guy image (he wore solid black clothing, used profane language, had a gravelly voice, and fought an on-again-off-again addiction to drugs). To help the cause along, Columbia released exaggerated ads claiming Cash was no stranger to prison. Which brings us to…
2. Cash never served time at Folsom, or any other prison.
He did seven short stints in jail, though, for drug- and alcohol-related charges. his song “Folsom Prison Blues” was instead inspired by the 1951 movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison. According to biographer Michael Streissguth, another influence was Gordon Jenkins’s song “Crescent City Blues,” from which Cash “borrowed” so heavily that when his version was recorded on the Folsomalbum, the original artists demanded -and received- royalties.
3. Cash inspired future country music star Merle Haggard.
Haggard was serving three years at San Quentin Prison for armed robbery and escaping from jail when Johnny Cash took the stage there in 1958. When Haggard later told Cash that he’d been at that concert, Cash said he didn’t remember Haggard performing that day; Haggard replied, “I was in the audience, Johnny.” In fact, he was sitting in the front row and was mesmerized by Cash. He and his fellow inmates identified with Cash’s lyrics about loss and imprisonment.
Haggard reminisced, “This was somebody singing a song about your personal life. Even the people who weren’t fans of Johnny cash -it was a mixture of people, all races were fans by the end of the show.” Haggard also soon realized that he shared Cash’s talent for making music and for speaking to the struggles of the working class. He joined the prison’s country band shortly after Cash’s concert and penned songs about being locked up. After his release in 1960, Haggard sang at clubs until he eventually became a country superstar himself.
4. The Live “Folsom Prison Blues” was too grisly for radio play.
Cash’s declaration “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die,” followed by an inmate’s shriek of joy, was edited by radio stations. But the hollering wasn’t real. It had been dubbed in by Columbia Records since the prisoners had been too enthralled by Cash’s performance to whoop it up during songs.
5. Cash’s band smuggled a gun into Folsom.
Johnny Cash and his bassist, Marshall Grant, often performed a comedy skit with an antique cap-and-ball gun that make smoke. It was a prop -but it was a real gun. Grant accidentally brought the weapon inside his bass guitar case to the 1968 show. A prison guard spotted it and politely took it away to the warden for safekeeping until the concert ended.
6. Folsom Prison inmate Glen Sherley wrote the song “Greystone Chapel” and credited Cash with changing his life.
Glen Sherley was in Folsom Prison for armed robbery, but he also loved music. Before Cash arrived for the 1968 show, Sherley recorded the song “Greystone Chapel” at the prison chapel. Appropriately, it was about a man whose body was imprisoned but his soul is freed by religion. Cash’s pastor, who also counseled inmates, smuggled the tape out to Cash, who learned to play the song the night before the show. After seeing Cash perform his song, Sherley vowed to make a mark with the musician. Once he was released from Folsom, he went to work for Johnny Cash’s publishing company, House of Cash. Sherley later remarked, “I was a three-time loser when John reached out his hand to me in 1968, and since then I sincerely believe that I have become a worthwhile person and can contribute to society.”
7. Cash’s concert at Folsom landed him his own musical variety show: The Johnny Cash Show.
FOLSOM PRISON BLUES
Cash noted, “I’ve always thought it ironic that it was a prison concert, with me and the convicts getting along just as fellow rebels, outsiders, and miscreants should, that pumped up my marketability to the point where ABC thought I was respectable enough to have a weekly network TV show.”
8. When Johnny Cash recorded At San Quentin in 1969, he didn’t know the lyrics to one of his most famous songs.
I was the first time cash had performed “A Boy Named Sue,” written by poet Shel Silverstein, so he had to read the lyrics from a sheet he’d stained with coffee. And before playing “Starkville City Jail,” cash explained that he was thrown in the slammer for picking daisies and dandelions at two in the morning. (By other accounts, he was breaking curfew, drunk in public, and trespassing.)
9. Cash brushed up on his Swedish for a show overseas.
In 1972 Cash went to Stockholm, Sweden, where he recorded the album Pa Osteraker at a Swedish prison. Between songs, he impressed and thrilled the inmates by introducing some of his songs in their language.
10. At the 1969 show, Cash’s song “San Quentin” nearly incited a riot there.
He’d just written the song the night before, and its inflammatory lyrics like, “San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell,” clearly struck a chord with the audience. The prisoners clamored and stomped until he repeated the song. Shrieking and jumping up on tabletops, they were so close to rioting that the guards drew and cocked their guns and the camera crew backed untoward the exit doors. According to producer Bob Johnston, Cash later said of the hair-raising moment, “I knew that if I wanted to let those people go, all I had to do was say, ‘the time is now’ And all of those prisoners would have broken…I was tempted.” (But of course, he didn’t.)
Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Jim Morrison to Appear on Postage Stamps
Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin, James Brown stamps also in the works
Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon.
Photoshot/Getty Images; Jan Olofsson/Redferns
February 21, 2014 3:25 PM ET
Philatelists rejoice: The U.S. Postal Service will unravel several lines of celebrity-adorned stamps over the next two years, with subjects ranging from Apple founder Steve Jobs to gay rights activist Harvey Milk. It will also be offering numerous music-related stamps, including Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix this year and a James Brown stamp next year. 2015 will also see a re-release of Elvis Presley’s 29-cent tribute from 1993 — the Postal Service’s best-selling stamp ever — according to The Washington Post. A stamp for John Lennon has been planned for an as-yet-unannounced date.
Putting Their Stamp on the Music: See Postal Tributes to Johnny Cash, Elvis, Buddy Holly and More
As published in a missive by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (via the Post), this year will also see the arrival of stamps honoring NBA champ Wilt Chamberlain, undisclosed celebrity chefs, “America’s Most Loved Pets” and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Next year, the Postal Service will release stamps for Johnny Carson, Ingrid Bergman and the gang from Peanuts.
The document also names a number of people and characters who will be honored with stamps sometime in the future. Among them are general music-related stamps honoring guitars and hip-hop, as well as several new entries in the U.S.P.S.’s Music Icons series, including Lennon, Bill Monroe, Jim Morrison, Sam Cooke, Tammy Wynette, “Fats” Waller, Freddie Fender, Roy Orbison, Sarah Vaughan and Willie Dixon. Michael Jackson will also be getting his own stamp that is not part of the Icons series.
Other stamps planned for a later date include Barack Obama, both Bush presidents, Bill Clinton, 20th Century humorists, Ansel Adams, a Black Heritage series, science fiction writers, pro football, Hanna-Barbera characters, Dora the Explorer and more.
Johnny Cash will be memorialized by the U.S. Postal Service this year with his very own stamp. The country legend will be a part of a new “Music Icons” series of stamps, and his version features a photograph by Frank Bez taken for 1963’s Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. The striking black-and-white design is intended to resemble a 45 rpm record sleeve .
Cash’s stamp went through an arduous selection process to be issued. “We get about 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas each year but only about 20 topics make the cut,” USPS representative Mark Saunders told Today.com. “These suggestions are reviewed by the Postmaster General’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory whose role is to narrow down that 40,000 to roughly 20 and then provide their recommendations to the Postmaster General for final approval.”
A release date for the stamp has yet to be announced. Today.com notes that two more stamps in the “Music Icons” series will be revealed this year. Johnny Cash died of complications from diabetes in September 2003. He was 71.
Johnny Cash did a series of Christmas TV specials and a string of Christmas records (my favorite being the The Classic Christmas Album featuring “Blue Christmas”). In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison (“Pretty Woman” starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 36 years ago — with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.