Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue

This was written by the multitalented Shel Silverstein, who later wrote several hits for Dr. Hook, including “Sylvia’s Mother” and “Cover Of The Rolling Stone.” He got the idea for the song from his friend Jean Shepherd – a guy who had to deal with a girl’s name.

Shel Silverstein sang his song ‘Boy Named Sue,’ and Johnny’s wife June Carter thought it was a great song for Johnny Cash to perform. And not too long after that they were headed off to San Quentin to record a record Live At San Quentin and June said, ‘Why don’t you bring that Shel song with you.”And so they brought the lyrics. And when he was on stage he performed that song for the first time ever, he performed it live in front of that captive audience, in every sense of the word.

When Johnny performed this song at San Quentin he read the lyrics from a sheet of paper on the stage.

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100 and #1 in the Billboard Country Charts. The album Johnny Cash At San Quentin peaked at #1 in 1969.

Johnny Cash performed this song in the East Room of the White House on April 17, 1970, when he and his wife were invited by President Richard Milhous Nixon. Nixon’s staff had requested the song along with Okie From Muskogee and the song “Welfare Cadillac,” but Cash refused to perform those songs, saying he didn’t have arrangements ready.

Thanks to Victoria at The Hinoeuma for suggesting this Johnny Cash song.

From Songfacts

This is about a boy who grows up angry at his father not only for leaving his family, but for naming him Sue. When the boy grows up, he sees his father in a bar and gets in a fight with him. After his father explains that he named him Sue to make sure he was tough, the son understands.

Cash recorded this live at San Quentin Prison in February 1969. Shel Silverstein’s nephew Mitch Myers told us the story: “In those days in Nashville, and for all the people that would visit, the most fun that anyone really could have would be to go over to someone’s house and play music. And they would do what one would call a ‘Guitar Pull,’ where you grabbed a guitar and you played one of your new songs, then someone else next to you would grab it and do the same, and there were people like Johnny Cash or Joni Mitchell, people of that caliber in the room.

It wasn’t touched up, it wasn’t produced or simulated. They just did it, and it stuck. And it rang. I would say that it would qualify in the realm of novelty, a novelty song. Shel had a knack for the humorous and the kind of subversive lyrics. But they also were so catchy that people could not resist them.” 

Shel Silverstein went on to write another song titled “The Father of the Boy Named Sue.” It’s the same story, but from the father’s point of view. 

In the 2019 animated film Missing Link, the main character, a male Sasquatch voiced by Zach Galifianakis, is named Susan.

A Boy Named Sue

I want you to uh, I want to a,
If you don’t mind Carl, I’d like you to stay out and help us on some songs
I’d love to
One of the greatest guitar players as well as song writers and singers in Memphis
Appreciate a little help on guitar, alright. Thank you Carl

Well,my daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue

Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk
It seems I had to fight my whole life through
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean
My fist got hard and my wits got keen
I’d roam from town to town to hide my shame
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew
At an old saloon on a street of mud
There at a table, dealing stud
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me Sue

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye
He was big and bent and gray and old
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said, “My name is Sue, how do you do
Now you’re gonna die”

(yeah, that’s what I told him)

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer

I tell ya, I’ve fought tougher men
But I really can’t remember when
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first
He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile

And he said, “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

He said, “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do
But ya ought to thank me, before I die
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
‘Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you Sue”

Well what could I do? What could I do?
I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my Pa, and he called me his son
And I came away with a different point of view
And I think about him, now and then
Every time I try and every time I win
And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him..
Bill or George! Any-damn-thing but Sue!

Alright, thank you very much

Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line

A signature song for Cash.

“I Walk the Line” was recorded at Sun Studios for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. A 24-year-old Cash is said to have written the lyrics in just 20 minutes as the words about his then-wife, Vivian Liberto, flowed out of him.

Recorded in April 1956, Cash’s first #1 was sped up at the urging of Sun Studios owners Sam Phillips. Jack Clements, who worked with Cash, recalled: “I wasn’t impressed with Cash at first, because I like recordings with class… And Cash seemed rough, but ‘I Walk The line’ was a class recording.”

While performing the song on his TV show, Cash admitted that his eerie hum at the beginning of each verse was to get his pitch. The song required Cash to change keys several times while singing it.

Cash wanted to record the song at a much slower tempo, making it a ballad. Sam Phillips, encouraged him to speed up the track, it became the song that we remember.

Bob Dylan on the song: “It was different than anything else you had ever heard,” “A voice from the middle of the Earth.”

From Songfacts

One of his most famous songs, this song details Johnny Cash’s values and lifestyle. It is a promise to remain faithful to his first wife, Vivian, while he is on the road.

“Walk The Line” was the title of the 2005 Cash biopic, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. 

Carl Perkins suggested the title “I Walk The Line” while on tour with Cash. 

A version by Megan Wyler and Adem Ilhan was used in popular Levi’s commercials that aired in 2006. 

On March 31, 1971, Cash closed out the finale of his television series The Johnny Cash Show with this song. The show had run since June 7, 1969, and drew a substantial audience, but was eliminated as part of the “rural purge” that cancelled many popular shows because they didn’t appeal to the younger generation of television viewers who were primarily concerned with things like the Vietnam War, rock and roll, and the Hippie counterculture.

The Voice contestant Craig Wayne Boyd reached #84 on the Hot 100 following a November 24, 2014 performance of the song on the show where he reinterpreted it as a slow, soulful ballad. It was the tune’s first appearance on the chart since Jaye P. Morgan’s cover reached #66 in 1960.

I Walk The LIne

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

Because you’re mine, I walk the line
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

Rosanne Cash/ Johnny Cash – Tennessee Flat Top Box

This is my favorite song that Roseanne Cash made. The song was written by her dad Johnny Cash and he released it in 1961 and it peaked at #11 on the Country Charts and #84 in the Billboard 100.

Rosanne released it in 1987 on her album King’s Record Shop. The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard Country Charts. The first time I heard it I liked it right away.

 

This is the only video I could find of them singing it together. It wasn’t professionally recorded. It was in 1989 after the song was a hit for Rosanne… it was videotaped at John & June’s house to celebrate June’s latest book about Mother Mabel Carter.

Tennessee Flat Box

In a little cabaret
In a south Texas border town
Sat a boy and his guitar
And the people came from all around
And all the girls
From there to Austin
Were slippin’ away from home
And puttin’ jewelry in hock to take the trip
To go and listen
To the little dark-haired boy who played the
Tennessee flat top box
And he would play

Well he couldn’t ride or wrangle
And he never cared to make a dime
But give him his guitar
And he’d be happy all the time
And all the girls
From nine to ninety
Were snappin’ fingers
Tappin’ toes
And beggin’ him don’t stop
And hypnotized
And fascinated
By the little dark-haired boy who played the
Tennessee flat top box
And he would play

Then one day he was gone
And no one ever saw him ’round
He vanished like the breeze
They forgot him in the little town
But all the girls
Still dreamed about him
And hung around
The cabaret until the doors were locked
And then one day
On the hit parade
Was the little dark-haired boy who played the
Tennessee flat top box
And he would play

Johnny Cash – Cry! Cry! Cry!

No one crosses genres like Johnny Cash. I’ve seen rockers, heavy metal, and country fans like Johnny.

After Cash returned home from the Air Force and signed with Sun Records, he gave Sam Phillips the song “Hey Porter.” Phillips asked for a ballad for the B-side, so Cash went home and quickly wrote “Cry! Cry! Cry!” literally overnight. It became his first big hit.

“Cry! Cry! Cry!” was released and sold over 100,000 copies. The song was originally released in 1955 and reached #14 in the charts at the time. This song was the B side to Hey Porter.

Elvis Costello did a fantastic cover of this song in 1982 as the B side to I’m Your Toy. 

 

Cry! Cry! Cry!

Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down.
I think you only live to see the lights uptown.
I wasted my time when I would try, try, try.
‘Cause when the lights have lost their glow, you’ll cry, cry, cry.

Soon your sugar-daddies will all be gone.
You’ll wake up some cold day and find you’re alone.
You’ll call for me but I’m gonna tell you: “Bye, bye, bye, “
When I turn around and walk away, you’ll cry, cry, cry,

You’re gonna cry, cry, cry and you’ll cry alone,
When everyone’s forgotten and you’re left on your own.
You’re gonna cry, cry, cry.

I lie awake at night to wait ’til you come in
You stay a little while and then you’re gone again
Every question that I ask, I get a lie, lie, lie
For every lie you tell, you’re gonna cry, cry, cry

When your fickle love gets old, no one will care for you.
Then you’ll come back to me for a little love that’s true.
I’ll tell you no and then you’ll ask me why, why, why?
When I remind you of all of this, you’ll cry, cry, cry.

You’re gonna cry, cry, cry and you’ll want me then,
It’ll hurt when you think of the fool you’ve been.
You’re gonna cry, cry, cry.

 

 

My Favorite Singers

There are so many singers that I cannot possibly list them all. I could make a top 30 and not get them all. This is my personal favorite top 10 plus some extra.

For the most part, I like singers with soul and meaning to their singing…not vocal gymnastics.

1…Aretha Franklin – Aretha could make any song better by singing it.

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2…Van Morrison, Them and Solo  – Probably my favorite male singer.

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3…John Lennon, Beatles – John hated his voice and always wanted an effect on it…It didn’t need it…one of his best performances was “A Day In The Life”

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4…Bob Dylan – Bob changed popular singing.  I would rather hear Bob sing than many of the great traditional singers.

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5…Elvis Presley – Hey he’s Elvis…

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6…Otis Redding – Just a fantastic singer and performer and just taking off before he was killed in a plane crash.

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7…Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones – Mick makes the most out of his voice.

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8…John Fogerty…CCR – If I could have the voice of anyone…it would be Fogerty. The power that John has is incredible…his voice is its own instrument.

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9…Janis Joplin – She put everything she had in each song. Her last producer Paul A. Rothchild was teaching Janis how to hold back and sing more traditional to save her voice for old age…which never came.

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10…Johnny Cash – Last but far from least.  Only one man can sound like Cash…and that is Cash

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Honorable Mention…any of these could have easily been on the list.

Steve Marriott, Paul McCartney, Levon Helm, Bessie Smith, Little Richard, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Elton John, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Joe Cocker, Billie Holiday, Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Rodgers, David Bowie.

 

 

 

 

Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere

I don’t think any performer is as popular and liked across generations and genres as Johnny Cash. I’ve met hard rock, country, and blues fans who love him. He was/is an American Icon.

Hank Snow made this song popular in 1962 by taking this song to #1 on the Country chart and #68 on the Billboard 100. Johnny covered this song in 1996 and it’s the version I remember. Cash had a way of making a song his own…

From songfacts.

Johnny Cash recorded a popular version of this song that was used in commercials for Comfort Inn and also in the 2004 remake of the movie Flight Of The Phoenix. Other artists to record the song include Rolf Harris, Lynn Anderson, Willie Nelson, and The Statler Brothers. This was written by the Australian songwriter and country singer Geoff Mack.

“I’ve Been Everywhere”
I was totin’ my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road,
When along came a semi with a high and canvas-covered load.
“If you’re goin’ to Winnemucca, Mack, with me you can ride.”
And so I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside.
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand.
And I said, “Listen, I’ve traveled every road in this here land!”

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to
Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota,
Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota,
Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,
Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma,
Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,
Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla, I’m a killer.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to
Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana,
Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana,
Monterey, Faraday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa,
Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,
Tennessee to Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake,
Grand Lake, Devil’s Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete’s sake.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to
Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika,
Schefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica,
Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport,
Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond du Lac, Davenport,
Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamantina,
Pasadena, Catalina, see what I mean-a.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to
Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelbourg, Colorado,
Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, El Dorado,
Larimore, Admore, Haverstraw, Chatanika,
Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika,
Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve a-had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been everywhere.

Gower Guitars

I have three Gowers and one Grammer Guitar and I’m really proud to have them. They are part of my family heritage that I had nothing to do with…My family built guitars (Gower Guitars and Grammer Guitars) starting in the 1950s and made them until the 1970s. Country artists such as Johnny Cash, Leon Rhodes, Gordon Terry, and George Jones played Gower and Grammer Guitars.

I keep my eye out for them but on eBay, they are anywhere between $1500 – $5000 and more. They are rare…if you run up on one for a good price grab it. I don’t want them only for the family connection…they sound great.

I have two acoustics and two electrics. They didn’t make a lot of electric guitars. They all play great and the acoustics have the feel of a Martin. I asked my dad once why they didn’t make more electric guitars. He said because acoustics took craftmanship and electrics were basically “2 x 4’s with strings.”

Well, the electrics I have are more than that. The Green sunburst hollow body electric I have has a Gibson 335 feel and the mahogany solid body electric I have with original DeArmond pickups I would put it against any Gibson SG…

In the sixties, my family also built a studio where singer-songwriters Joe South, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens, Johnny Bragg and drummer D. J. Fontana recorded demos there.

I remember when I was 4 or 5 and walking into the Grammer guitar shop in the early 70s around the time it ended. I will never forget that smell of wood and glue…I also remember the studio and walking in with my cousin Ricky and seeing egg crates on the wall. I do wish they would have continued.

I will let two of my relatives who were there at the time and remember, tell the history…one being Randy Gower who’s father was J.W. Gower and Ricky Moore who’s mother was Alma Moore. My father was Bobby Max Gower.

The below is some history by Ricky Moore and Randy Gower

Ricky Moore

In 1955 J.W. Gower and his sister Alma Moore started the Gower Company. The first guitar was made by bending the sides on a tree. This did not work well but they still got the Guitar together. After a few months, they had purchased some woodworking equipment and had a brick building built by their duplex where they lived.

They built acoustics and electrics from 1955 until the early 1960’s. They made their own guitar pickups. Alma Moore’s husband Kellice Moore built a machine out of an old sewing machine and an old part from a car to wind the pickups.

Randy Gower

Then one day, out of nowhere, dad (J.W. Gower) decided he wanted to build guitars. He went and visited a violin maker in town and picked his brain and as George Jones would say “The Race Was On”. The beginning of the guitar business was slow. If you had seen the first one you would have known why, uglier than a bowling shoe.  Made out of maple it was a big jumbo guitar.  The sound was good but it looked rough. He made the beast and he did not stop there. He made another one that looked better. Dad and his sister (Alma Moore) decided they could do this for a living so he and Alma’s husband Kellice Moore got together to build a brick o block shop in the back of the house where they could build guitars and do repair work on others. Gower Guitar began. It wasn’t long until he had the shop going. Alma and him would make a guitar on occasion. To help pay the bills they did a lot of repair work for the guys at the Opry. Paying the bills proved to be a challenge. I was only ten years old and I could tell for the time he was putting in on some of these jobs he was not charging enough. He would work 2 hours on a job and charge .50 cents. Granted this was 1958 and .50 was worth much more then than it is today but he was never going to get ahead. The shop was a who’s who of country music stars. Stonewall Jackson, Faron Young, Sonny James, Earl Scruggs, Eddie Arnold, Harold Bradley, Pete Wade and many more would hang out or pass through over the years.

I can remember being in the shop with a fire going in the old pot belly stove in the shop when Faron Young came by to pick up a job. He told dad he had just left the studio where he thought he had cut another hit. He reached down to pick up a guitar that was laying there, strummed a cord and said, “Hello Walls how’d things go for you today”. He was right it was a hit, a big hit.

Then there was Eddie Arnold. I came in from school one day and dad was on the phone with Mr. Arnold. As usual, I went over and ask for a nickel. For all of you, youngsters a nickel would buy a soda or candy bar back in the day. I regressed, he waved me off but I was persistent, I said give me a nickel, once again a wave off. I tried once more with the same response at which point I ran my hand down into his front pocket. I did n’t reach the bottom when out of nowhere a hand came flying across my face. He had smacked the shit out of me. I bounced off the block wall and stood there stunned in disbelief. That was the only time he ever smacked me but I will say I never really gave him a reason again, nor did I ever put my hand in his pocket again. To this day, if I hear or see Mr.  Eddy Arnold the hair will stand up on the back of my neck. Life lesson learned.

At some point in the early 60’s J.W. Gower and Kellice Moore decided to build a recording studio in the building they were making guitars in…no Gower guitars would be made again until the mid-1960’s. Around 1964 Billy Grammer came to the house and ask dad if he wanted to go into business with him making guitars. They went and got a third partner in Clyde Reid to help sell stock and raise money. The start of Grammer Guitar had its start.  They brought in a man named Fred Hedges who was an outstanding machinist to build equipment for the manufacturing process. It wasn’t long until dad realized the thing was not going to work out.  Billy and Clyde wanted to go to a laminated Rosewood for the backs and sides. Like most companies, this was just a cost saving and nothing more. However, dad contention was it affected the sound of the instrument and would not go along with the change.  They could not agree so dad left the company in ’66.

There was a gap between Grammer and the new Gower Co.

At some point, Hatch Reid approached dad about starting up Gower Guitar. Hatch was Clyde’s uncle and there again the money man.

J.W. Gower and his sister and brother Max started manufacturing acoustic guitars around 1966. The company was in business until sometime around 1969 when they went bankrupt. A salesman that worked for the company took orders for guitars and pocketed the money…

Alma Moore and her brother Max went back to Grammer Guitars and worked there until Grammer went out of business. Tut Taylor bought all the equipment at auction and leased the same building Grammer used. Alma Moore and her brother Bobby Max Gower worked for Tut Taylor until he also went out of business. She would go on to work for Gibson Guitars for 11 years until she retired. Max went on to work with Tut Taylor’s son Mark for a few years building wooden instruments.

J.W. Gower moved to Franklin, TN and made more Gower Guitars with his son Randy.

 

I’m proud to be associated with these guitars and studio if only by family. Not long ago I met the great guitarist Leon Rhodes before he passed away. We were introduced and when he heard who I was he started to tell me some stories about the old days and my family that I didn’t know.

All in all, I have 12 guitars… I like playing vintage guitars through vintage amps because I like the instruments to have a history. I like knowing I can get the exact sound now that someone got in 1970…I have some older guitars but the Gower guitars have part of my history.

This guitar was given to me by Randy Gower that J.W. Gower made. I wouldn’t take anything for it. My guitar guy installed humbucker pickups and I can get about any tone I want out of it.

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This one plays like a Martin. It is the best acoustic I have. It was made in the early sixties.

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