Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

But I shot a man in Reno, Just to watch him dieJohnny Cash

It doesn’t get much better than that.

The man in black was The Man. Not many performers can cross genres like Johnny Cash did and still does. He first recorded this song in 1955 at Sun Records as the B side to “S3o Doggone Lonesome” but it was the live 1969 version that hit.

The At Folsom Prison album helped revitalize Cash’s career. Up to this point, his last Country top 40 entry was in 1964. This was recorded live at Folsom Prison in California on January 13, 1968, and that album came to define his outlaw image. The record company told him it wouldn’t work but Johnny recorded at the prison anyway.

Folsom Prison Blues peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Charts, #1 on the Canadian Country Charts, #32 on the Billboard 100,  and #17 on the Canadian Pop Charts.  The song and album generated a lot of interest in the rebellious Johnny Cash, who made prison reform his political cause of choice. He started regularly performing in jails, doing about 12 shows a year for free mostly in Folsom and San Quentin.

The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Country Charts, #13 in the Billboard Album Charts, and #27 in Canada.

Johnny Cash Flipping Bird

This iconic picture came from Folsom Prison. According to photographer Jim Marshall…he asked Cash to express what he thought of the prison authorities when he played the show. Marshall told Cash “let’s do a shot for the warden” and the picture was born. 

Cash saw Crane Wilbur’s 90-minute film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison while stationed in Germany. It left an impression on Cash, who emphasized the tale of the imprisoned men, and inspired him to write a song. Johnny Cash: “It was a violent movie, I just wanted to write a song that would tell what I thought it would be like in prison.”

Cash’s first prison performance occurred in 1957 when he performed for inmates at Huntsville State Prison. The favorable response inspired Cash to perform at more prisons through the years. His next hit, recorded in San Quentin Prison, was the humorous “A Boy Named Sue,” which proved that he could be clever and funny.

Cash came off as a champion for the oppressed.  He got his own national TV show in 1969 and became one of the most popular entertainers of his era. His guests included Derek and the Dominos,  Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, James Taylor, Tammy Wynette, and Roy Orbison.

Isn’t that list incredible? Cash was considered a Country-Folk artist but look at the range of performers. The late sixties and seventies were like this ….and it’s the reason I like them so much…all the generations intersected at that point in time. I mean you have Eric Clapton and then you have Tammy Wynette on the guest list.

The lyrics to this song were based on a 1953 recording called Crescent City Blues by a bandleader named Gordon Jenkins with Beverly Maher on vocals. After filing a lawsuit, Gordon Jenkins received an out-of-court settlement from Cash in 1969. I have to say it does sound really close.

Johnny Cash: “I don’t see anything good come out of prison. You put them in like animals and tear out the souls and guts of them, and let them out worse than they went in.”

Rosanne Cash: “He was a real man with great faults, and great genius and beauty in him, but he wasn’t this guy who could save you or anyone else.”

Folsom Prison Blues

(Hello, I’m Johnny Cash)

I hear the train a-comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a-rollin’
On down to San Antone

When I was just a baby
My Mama told me, “son
Always be a good boy
Don’t ever play with guns”
But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin’
I hang my head and cry (play it to the verse, yeah)
(Sue it)

I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
From a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
Well, I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me (hit it)

(Howdy-ho)

Well, if they freed me from this prison
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d move it on, a little
Farther down the line
Far from Folsom Prison
That’s where I want to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle
Blow my blues away

(yeah)

The Music of 1968

Dave from A Sound Day (check out the other posts on Dave’s “Turntable Talk”) posted this on November 5, 2022. He wanted a group of us to write about what we thought was the best year in music…I ended up picking the turbulent year of 1968.

When I think of the best year of music …for me it’s between 7 years. I would pick 1965 through 1971. I cannot pick all so here it goes…I pick 1968. It had some of the greatest albums and singles ever.

It was a turbulent year, to say the least. We lost two proponents of peace—Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Other events include the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, riots in Washington, DC, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and heightened social unrest over the Vietnam War, values, and race.

The music was also toughened up by moving away from psychedelic music. The social climate and The Band’s album Music from Big Pink had a lot of influence on this. You still had psychedelic music released but overall, music was more stripped down to the basics.

My favorite album of all time was released by The Beatles. My favorite album by The Rolling Stones was released that year as well. Let’s look at the albums released in 1968…it’s outstanding.

The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

The Kinks – Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Band – Music From Big Pink

Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

Cream – Wheel Of Fire

The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Big Brother and Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle

The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Traffic – Traffic

That list could be on my desert island list… those albums are still being played today. I’ve only scratched the surface of the albums that year.

The Holy Trinity of Rock all released music that year… which would be The Beatles, The Who, and The Stones. I can’t imagine living in the era when these bands were in their prime and roamed the earth. The Who didn’t release an album, but they did release some singles and were gearing up for the following year. Let’s look at some of the singles of that year.

The Beatles – Hey Jude/Revolution

The Beatles – Lady Madonna

The Who – Magic Bus

The Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash

Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

The Doors – Hello, I Love You

The Rascals – People Got To Be Free

Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

The Supremes – Love Child

The Chamber Brothers – Time Has Come Today

Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Suzie Q

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

The year featured the debut album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Brian Jones made his final album with the Rolling Stones and it was the start of their great 5 album stretch. The Who started to record the album that would break them worldwide with Tommy. Dock of the Bay would be released posthumously after Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. The Grateful Dead would release their second album Anthem of the Sun and continue to build one of the largest fan bases ever. Jimi Hendrix was breaking barriers with his experimentation in the studio as well as live.

The Band would change the game by releasing Music From Big Pink. It influenced nearly everyone at the time to go back to a rootsy kind of music. Fleetwood Mac would release their debut album this year. Jeff Beck would release his legendary album Truth.

FM radio was getting huge at this time and showed that audiences didn’t have to have top 40 hits to buy albums. Take Van Morrison for instance. Astral Weeks didn’t have a “hit” on the album but continued to be played and sell. The Beatles  The White Album is as diverse as you can get… Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Reggae, Avant-Gard, Blues, Hard Rock, and some 20’s British Music Hall thrown in for good measure. No singles were released from this album or Sgt Pepper the previous year. They treated singles and albums as two different things. Hey Jude and the hit version of Revolution was recorded during the White Album but yet they left those two off. The Stones would do the same and leave off Jumpin’ Jack Flash from  Beggars Banquet.

1968 set the stage for the coming decade’s rock music. Bands like The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin didn’t need hit singles. You bought the album now and listened to the music in the context of that format. There were still pop/rock singles but the albums were gaining traction.

To wrap it up…I think any of the years between 1965-1971 could have a strong argument for my tastes. If you are into disco or synth music…not as much.

Favorite Rock Lyrics

Here are some cool lyrics to some songs. My all-time favorite is the first one…I’ve used this one over and over whenever at work and in our world. I could have filled this up with Dylan lyrics but I wanted to spread the wealth.

The Who | Music legends, Music pics, Rock and roll

Meet the new boss/same as the old boss…The Who (No truer words have been spoken)

What isn't shown in The Beatles: Get Back — Class A drugs, Yoko baiting and  the dodgy accountant | Times2 | The Times

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make…The Beatles

Chuck Berry: 20 Essential Songs - Rolling Stone

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back
And started walking toward a coffee-colored Cadillac… Chuck Berry

Jimmy Webb on John Lennon's Lost Weekend, Frank Sinatra - Rolling Stone

And I need you more than want you,
And I want you for all time…Jimmy Webb

How Peter Gabriel Conquered the World With 'So'

You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a fire…Peter Gabriel.

Grateful Dead - Wikipedia

Shake the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan… Grateful Dead

Revolutions: Rolling Stones "Beggars Banquet" - YouTube

I wasn’t looking too good but I was feeling real well… Rolling Stones

Johnny Cash photographer reveals truth behind San Quentin Prison shot

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die… Johnny Cash

Bruce Springsteen – The Highlight Reel (1973-1975) – Pretty In Sync.

We learned more from a three-minute record, than we ever learned in school…Bruce Springsteen

Why Hank Williams Won't Be Reinstated in the Grand Ole Opry - Rolling Stone

The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky… Hank Williams Sr.

The Band Shares Previously-Unreleased "The Weight" From Royal Albert Hall,  1971 [Listen]

I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse/for the crime of having no dough…The Band

lynyrd skynyrd - one more time

I drank enough whiskey to float a battleship around… Lynyrd Skynyrd

Jimmy Buffett

I blew out my flip-flop stepped on a pop-top/cut my heel had to cruise on back home… Jimmy Buffet

Bob Dylan

She knows there’s no success like failure and that failure’s no success at all… Bob Dylan

Bob Seger

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then… Bob Seger

TW

In Jersey, anything’s legal, as long as you don’t get caught… The Traveling Wilburys

Ricky Nelson

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself…Ricky Nelson

Kinks

Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain and celluloid heroes never really die… Kinks

Johnny Cash – Hurt

My friend Dave was nice enough to publish this post on his site A Sound Day a couple of months ago for Turntable Talk.  

Trent Reznor: “That song isn’t mine anymore”

A good cover song needs to be somewhat faithful, so you know what it is… to the original but not an exact replica as in Todd Rundgren’s Good Vibrations. Very few times do I see covers that are as good as the original, but it does happen. Jimi Hendrix did the trick with Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watch Tower and Dylan does it in Jimi’s style even today. Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt adds a different layer to the song…and it works.

Hurt written by Trent Reznor seemed unlikely to be covered by Johnny Cash. The producer Rick Rubin convinced Cash to give it a shot and it worked. Johnny was a different kind of artist. There are only a few that can cross genres so easily. I think Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash belong in that category.

The song was born in a house that at one moment in time… was a real house of horrors. Trent Reznor, the singer of Nine Inch Nails, moved into a rented house at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Nine Inch Nails recorded the EP Broken and The Downward Spiral album in that house. Hurt was on the later album.

The house was no other than Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s old home where Manson’s followers murdered Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steve Parent in 1969. After Reznor met Sharon Tate’s sister…he realized he didn’t want to be looked at like he was endorsing serial killers so he moved out. “When she was talking to me, I realized for the first time, ‘What if it was my sister?’ I thought, ‘F— Charlie Manson.’ I don’t want to be looked at as a guy who supports serial-killer bull—-.” Reznor moved out soon later but he did take the front door. It was demolished soon after.

The song deals with addiction struggles and isolation but in the hands of Cash it changes but remains true. This is the one song where I say…watch the video also. I don’t say that often but it adds to Cash’s story. The video was shot in February of 2003. June Cash would die in May and Johnny would die in September.

Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers play on the track.

Trent Reznor: “I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore… It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. Somehow that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.”

Trent Reznor:  “I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, what I had written in my diary was now superimposed on the life of this icon and sung so beautifully and emotionally. It was a reminder of what an important medium music is. Goosebumps up the spine. It really made sense. I thought: ‘What a powerful piece of art.’ I never got to meet Johnny, but I’m happy I contributed in the way I did. It wasn’t my song anymore.”

Hurt

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real

The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair

Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I’m still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Bob Dylan – Eat The Document

This is a film I so wish they would clean up and release. I watched a bootleg version of it in the 80s VHS. 

This was a film that covered Bob Dylan on his 1966 European tour backed up by the Hawks that eventually became The Band minus, Levon Helm. The film was to be shown on ABC television but ABC rejected and saying it was “incomprehensible” because Dylan himself was one of the editors and wanted the film to have more of an artistic feel.

It was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker who filmed Dylan’s 65 European tour when he played acoustically called Don’t Look Back. Don’t Look Back is terrific. This film is very disjointed. That is not saying I don’t like it. This is the Dylan period that probably is my favorite. The Hawks are raw and powerful and Dylan was

There are some highlights to this odd film. A spontaneous piano duet with Dylan and Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Bob Dylan very high riding around in a cab, and the famous concert where an audience member yells out “Judas” because of Dylan’s conversion to electric music. After the Judas remark, he proceeds to tell Robbie Robertson to play it loud and they kick off in a vicious “Like a Rolling Stone.” My favorite live version of that song. Those folk music fans were harsh.

The film is disjointed and frustrating to watch because some of the songs you want to see and hear are there…but only partly. You will be seeing Dylan performing something and then flash away to something else. Some of the concert footage and film from this ended up in the Martin Scorsese movie No Direction Home…I would recommend No Direction Home to everyone.

Bob was pale and nervous and there is no secret he was doing drugs heavily throughout this movie. After the tour, Dylan had a motorcycle wreck heard around the world and after he recovered he didn’t tour for years.

The cab ride with John Lennon is historical now. Both of them in sunglasses and Lennon trying to inject humor into the situation and Dylan is ok at first and then starts getting sick as the filming stops.

If you are a Dylan fan it’s worth a watch. I’m glad we have “No Direction Home” to see some clear film segments on that tour. Eat The Document has not been officially released but you can get a bootleg of it or watch most of it on youtube.

Johnny Cash – Get Rhythm

Remember those old E.F. Hutton commercials? If you don’t youtube one but anyway…when Johnny Cash talked or sang…everyone listened. This song is a fantastic B side that was raised  up from that years later.

In 1956, Johnny Cash released his No. 1 song “I Walk the Line.” The B-side of his song is his rockabilly song “Get Rhythm.” Not much attention was given to this song.

After fourteen years, Cash released his song “Get Rhythm” again in 1969. This time he released it as a single.  It peaked at  #23 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart…and #60 in the Billboard 100. Not bad for a forgotten B side.

Get Rhythm

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on , get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you’re a mighty little boy to be-a workin’ that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin
Kept on a poppin’ and he said again

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

George Thorogood – Wanted Man

Wanted Man was written by Bob Dylan and it is a favorite of mine. I first heard it by George Thorogood. The first time I heard it was not the studio version that George did…it was when he played it on the 30th Anniversary Bob Dylan concert held in 1993. George’s version of Wanted Man was left off of the CD for some reason…but I knew I had to find that Dylan song as soon as I heard it.

This was pre-internet and I finally found out that Dylan never recorded it for an album. To this day I’ve never heard a version of only Bob singing it… not even a demo of just him.

From what I’ve read about the song Bob Dylan wrote Wanted Man for Nashville Skyline but no complete version of the song was recorded at those sessions. Johnny Cash covered the song and he announced it as a song that him and Dylan wrote together but the records show that Dylan copyrighted it according to a couple of websites.

Cash debuted “Wanted Man” on his 1969 live album, At San Quentin, and would later release a studio version.

George Thorogood released his version on his 1982 Bad To The Bone album released in 1982. The word play in this song is great.

Below I have George’s version of course but I also have Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan demo of the song.

Wanted Man

Wanted man in California
Wanted man in Ohio
Wanted man in Kansas City
Wanted man in Buffalo

Wanted man in Oklahoma
Wantd man in old Cheyenne
Wherever you might look tonight
You might see this wanted man

Well, I might be in Colorado
Or Georgia by the sea
Workin’ for some man who may not know who I might be
Yeah, and if you see me comin’
And you know who I am
Don’t you breathe it to nobody
Cause you know I’m on the lam

Wanted man by Lucy Watson
Wanted man by Jeannie Brown
Wanted man by Nelly Johnson
Wanted man in this Tex town

And I’ve had all that I’ve wanted
Of a lot of things I’ve had
And a lot more than I’ve needed
Of some things that turned out bad

Well, I got sidetracked in El Paso
Stopped to get myself a map
I went the wrong way into Juarez
With Juanita on my lap
And I went to sleep in Shreveport
Woke up in Abilene
Wonderin’ why the hell I’m wanted
At some town halfway between

Wanted man in Albuquerque
Wanted man in Baton Rouge
Wanted man in Tallahassee
Wanted man in Syracuse

And there’s somebody sent to grab me
Anywhere that I might be
Wherever you might look tonight
You might get a glimpse of me

Wanted man in California
Wanted man in Ohio
Wanted man in Kansas City
Wanted man in Buffalo
Wanted man in Oklahoma
Wanted man in old Cheyenne
Wherever you might look tonight
You might see this wanted man

Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

When I first heard this song in the 90s I did a double-take. Did he sing what I thought he sang? I had never heard the original version he did in the 60s. I do prefer the 1994 version but both are worth a listen.

Johnny Cash originally recorded this song written by Karl Silbersdorf and Dick Toops on his 1962 The Sound of Johnny Cash album.

He re-recorded it in 1994, on American Recordings produced by the Rick Rubin. He explained why he chose to redo the song: “‘Delia’s Gone’ is the Devil’s deed of daring,” said Cash. “We were talking about ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – and ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ – and I said, ‘I want another song like that.’ So Rick and I started listening and we found ‘Delia’s Gone.’ We realized I had recorded it in the ’60s, but not the way I’ve recorded it on American, and that I should work it up and do it over. So we started working on it and we did it and we came up with this version.”

It was inspired by a true-life story. In 1900, a certain account of murder became infamous as 14-year old Delia Green was killed on Christmas Day when Mose/Moses Houston, a teenage boy shot Delia dead. The newspaper reports that Delia and Mose had a sexual relationship and the latter was triggered off an argument.

Delia’s Gone

Delia, oh, Delia
Delia all my life
If I hadn’t shot poor Delia
I’d have had her for my wife
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

I went up to Memphis
And I met Delia there
Found her in her parlor
And I tied her to her chair
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

She was low down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to
Grab my submachine
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

First time I shot her
I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

But jailer, oh, jailer
Jailer, I can’t sleep
‘Cause all around my bedside
I hear the patter of Delia’s feet
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

So if your woman’s devilish
You can let her run
Or you can bring her down and do her
Like Delia got done
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

 

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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