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Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Johnny Cash’s live album ‘Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison’ is in the top five albums ever release countdown, but it was also a comeback album for Cash. The record was released in 1968 when Johnny’s career was taking a downturn because of drugs and he wanted to turn things around and clean-up his act.

When Cash came up with the idea of recording a live album at the California prison his record label, Columbia, was not impressed because they were worried with a live album they couldn’t go back and edit, they would be stuck with what they had. Cash had a big backer at the record company though, Bob Dylan; it was Dylan’s producer who made sure the live album got the go ahead from the record company.

It was January 13th. 1968, in the dining hall when the concert took place in front of 2,000 convicted criminals. There were two days of rehearsals and two shows, the first on the 13th, second on the 14th.

Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers opened for Cash as they did on a regular bases, but it was Johnny Cash that brought the house down. June Carter Cash took the stage a couple of songs in, and they sang their trademark duet ‘Jackson’.

Some of the cheers and applause that are heard on the album did not occur during the concert because inmates were afraid to show to much support for lyrics Cash sang that were true for fear it might cause them trouble with the warden. The line in Folsom Prison Blues that says ‘I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die’, the cheer and applause were dubbed in later.

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The album ended up being one of Johnny Cash’s biggest comebacks and went triple platinum, Cash himself said of the album, ‘that’s where  things really got started for me again’.

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