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Watch all four Johnny Cash Christmas specials

The Christmas Spirit by Johnny Cash
From 1976 to 1979, CBS ran a Johnny Cash Christmas special every year—it must have been a significant Christmas tradition in many homes (alas, not my own). For those who remember Cash as the ultimate rebel par excellence, these specials make for some interesting viewing. During the 1970s Cash experienced a slump in record sales, and during this period he was a familiar face on TV, appearing as a guest star on Columbo and Little House on the Prairie and doing commercials for Amoco.

In these specials, the sentimentality of the occasion can’t be ignored, so Cash gamely refashioned himself as a family-friendly country music TV host. We’re far from the middle-finger Johnny Cash or Folsom Prison Blues; there’s a decent amount of corny levity to be seen here. You might say that this is the closest that Cash came to a figure on Hee Haw (of course, he appeared on Hee Haw as well).
Johnny Cash as Santa Claus
Of course, June Carter Cash is every bit as present as Johnny—the emphasis here is charmingly on family, and many of June and Johnny’s wide-ranging clan of relatives are featured, especially in the 1976 and 1979 specials, which were taped in Tennessee.

If you find yourself inundated with cheesy Christmas songs in every retail establishment you dare to enter, you can surely improve your life by dialing up The Johnny Cash Christmas Special, with its mix of Christmas classics and country-western fare, in their stead.

Taped in Nashville, the special that kicked it off is the most homespun of the bunch. The entire second half of the show is framed as an expansive musical visit around the Cash family hearth. Earlier, Johnny and June join Tony Orlando for “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” and (back at the hearth) Barbara Mandrell, several years before she and her sisters got a show of their own on NBC, engages in some ass-kicking steel guitar wizardry before singing “A Beautiful Morning with You.” Billy Graham ends with a downbeat sermon.

The 1977 edition may be the strongest from a musical perspective, or maybe it’s just my own bias in favor of rock over country. There’s scarcely any humor sketches, which would predominate in the next two years, and the core of the show is dedicated to three of rock and roll’s most venerable heroes, all associated with Sun Studios, just as Cash himself was. In rapid succession we get Carl Perkins singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” Roy Orbison singing “Pretty Woman,” and Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” before Lewis essays a reverent rendition of “White Christmas.” Then the three of them and Cash come together to sing “This Train Is Bound For Glory” in a tribute to Elvis, who had died just a few months earlier. Also, Johnny spends a good chunk of the show wearing Army fatigues (!).

The 1978 Johnny Cash Christmas Special, like the 1977 edition, was taped in Los Angeles, and it shows a little. The guests include Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Steve Martin, who as a budding superstar is given a fair amount of time for his hijinks. The high point is probably Cash and Kristofferson singing the latter’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” together.

It’s not news that DM is very Andy Kaufman-friendly, so it was something of a shock to hit play on the 1979 special and see none other than Kaufman himself in the opening bit. For this version of the special, Cash returned to Nashville, and the presence of an appreciative Opryland audience is a blessing. Kaufman scarcely strays from his Latka character, except when he does a completely straight version of Elvis Presley’s “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.” It’s well known that Elvis loved Andy’s impersonation; here’s a fine chance to see it.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Johnny Cash Sings Austrian Jams
Shit-hot: The PERFECT Johnny Cash set from German TV, 1972

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Shit-hot: The PERFECT Johnny Cash set from German TV, 1972
12:50 pm


Johnny Cash
June Carter
Carl Perkins

Talk about a ring of fire… Watch this highly enjoyable (I’d go so far to say it’s “inspiring”) 1972 Johnny Cash episode of Germany’s Beat Club TV show, featuring The Tennessee 3, June Carter and her sister Anita Carter, along with special guest Carl Perkins.

Perkins gets the audience warmed up with his “Blue Suede Shoes,” then Cash steps onstage for a charming reading of Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” and a few words in German (Cash served in the US Air Force there). Then he goes into Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (the first of three numbers by the songwriter) and it just keeps getting better from there.

It’s pretty much the perfect mid-career Johnny Cash set, and when June comes out, forget about it, the whole thing just goes into overdrive. The quality is very good here.

Carl Perkins: “Blue Suede Shoes”
Johnny Cash: “A Boy Named Sue”
Johnny Cash: “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
Johnny Cash: “Tennessee Flat Top Box”
Johnny Cash: “I Still Miss Someone / Me and Bobby McGee”
Anita Carter: “Lovin’ Him was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”
Johnny Cash: “Rock Island Line”
Johnny Cash: “Folsom Prison Blues”
Johnny Cash: “I Walk The Line”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “Jackson”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “If I Were a Carpenter/Help Me Make It Through the Night”
Johnny Cash & June Carter: “If I Had a Hammer”
Johnny Cash: “A Thing Called Love”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Earliest known footage of Elvis, Buddy Holly (plus Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins)

This is what it says on YouTube:

This colour clip was shot silent in 1955 in Oklahoma City while Holly and Elvis Presley were working the two bottom slots on a country package tour headlined by Hank Snow — and apparently represents not only the earliest film footage of Holly but that of Elvis as well (he’s dressed in a neon-bright green shirt and he’s already a physically commanding figure).

Other YouTubers are saying this was shot in Buddy Holly’s high school in Lubbock, Texas, the following year. Whatever the case, you can also catch Carl Perkins, and at :58 seconds in, a really young-looking Johnny Cash.

(via Everlasting Blort)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment