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When a bunch of punks paid tribute to Johnny Cash at a low point in his career
12:28 pm


Johnny Cash
The Fall
Pete Shelley
The Mekons

Last night I saw a concert by Billy Bragg, whose socialistic music and entire socialistic steez has taken on new ultra-relevance in an era in which Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. Bragg was suitably fired up, and you can be sure he whipped the audience at Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club into a righteous frenzy before the night was out.

Opening was the venerable Jon Langford of the Mekons, and he told an amusing story from the stage involving Johnny Cash. The starting point was the ‘Til Things Are Brighter project, which Langford and former Fall member and later BBC deejay Marc Riley spearheaded as a way to pay homage to Cash. This was the late 1980s—seven years after Cash was nearly killed by an ostrich in 1981—and Cash’s stock was at a relative nadir. As Langford explained, Cash was a bit dejected because it looked for all the world like his productive career was over and he had little to look forward to beyond a lengthy dotage and an inevitable slide to obscurity.

The roster of musicians is rather eye-popping. The album opens with Michelle Shocked, whose breakthrough album Short Sharp Shocked came out the same year, doing “One Piece At A Time.” Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks covered “Straight A’s In Love” while Cabaret Voltaire‘s Steven Mallinder took on “I Walk the Line.” The Triffids’ David McComb gave “Country Boy” his best while Langford’s Mekons and Riley played “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Wanted Man,” respectively.

All thirteen backing tracks were recorded by Langford and Riley and their house band in one day at RikRak Studio in Leeds, and the vocal tracks were picked up as various opportunities arose over the next several weeks. As the Guardian’s Graeme Thomson wrote in 2011,

Langford recalls that Marc Almond, the one “proper” pop star taking part, came in and “told me I’d cut “Man in Black” in the wrong key. He had a horrible fit in the studio. Sally [Timms, from the Mekons] talked him down and coaxed this fantastic performance out of him, but I think he was a bit nervous. It was maybe a bit odd for him to be doing Johnny Cash songs.”

Odd perhaps, but Timms did some good work there—Almond’s vocal track is arguably the best thing on the album.

One of Langford and Riley’s clever ideas was to have Mary Mary, the (male) singer of the Grebo band Gaye Bykers on Acid execute a cover of Cash’s classic song “A Boy Named Sue.” They were concerned that Cash might not be enthusiastic being covered by anybody associated with a band of that name, but not a bit of it, he was totally open to it and found the idea entirely amusing.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Vintage driver’s licenses once issued to Alfred Hitchcock, Johnny Cash, James Brown & more!

Johnny Cash’s California driver’s license issued in 1964.
Back in 2013 my Dangerous Minds colleague Tara McGinley put together a post containing images of passports once used by David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin (among others) which I found very entertaining. Mostly because the celebrity subjects look less than thrilled to in their photos—with the exception of Joplin who is grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps the result of an unplanned acid flashback, who can say? At any rate, while conducting my ongoing “research” for my “job” here at DM I came across one of Cash’s old driver licenses from 1964 and that discovery led me down a rather intriguing rabbit hole that was full of other vintage driver’s licenses—some with equally intriguing backstories to go with them.

Robert De Niro’s taxicab licence from 1976.
Cash’s California state driver’s license (pictured at the top of this post) was sold in an auction in 2014 for $4,480 and even made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman along with the man who had acquired it, Rick Harrison (the star of the reality television show Pawn Stars) who purchased it from an individual who brought it into his store in Las Vegas. Not one to be outdone by the Man in Black, a license once belonging to Alfred Hitchcock (which you can see below) sold at an auction for the tidy sum of for $8,125. Whoa

Then there’s the coolest one in the lot I dug up belonging to a 33-year-old Robert De Niro (pictured above) issued by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 1976. Known for his commitment to getting as “method” as possible when it came to his acting roles, De Niro prepped for his role as Travis Bickle the aspiring vigilante about to go off the rails in Taxi Driver by spending a number of weeks driving a New York City yellow cab. According to folklore associated with De Niro’s time behind the wheel, when he was recognized by one of his passengers they actually believed that De Niro was still working as a taxi driver after winning an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in The Godfather II for his impeccable portrayal of young Vito Corleone. Who knew?

When it comes to the story behind Manson’s alleged driver’s license things are a little sketchy. In the 1971 book The Family author Ed Sanders was able to substantiate that Mason lived at the address noted on the license in Santa Barbara—705 Bath Street—along with Lynn “Squeaky” Fromme and Manson Family member Mary Brunner (the mother of Manson’s son Valentine) sometime during 1967—two years prior to his participation in the brutal slayings of director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate and four others at Polanski’s home in Benedict Canyon. The license notes Manson’s date of birth as November 11th—which is a point of contention between historians and criminologists alike as Manson’s date of birth has also been said to fall on November 12th. So while the jury is still out on the actual authenticity of this creepy artifact, it’s still nothing short of chilling to actually see a mundane personal document belonging to the one of the most notorious criminals in history.

You can see Manson’s maybe driver’s license as well as others that once belonged to Davy Jones of the Monkees (RIP), Joe Strummer, Dean Martin and a beaming James Brown all of whom look about as happy as we all do (with the exception of Brown of course because, cocaine) in our DMV photos which proves that the DMV does in fact hate everyone.

California driver’s license allegedly issued to Charles Manson in 1967.

Back in 2008 this driver’s license once belonging to Alfred Hitchcock sold at an auction for $8,125.
More after the jump…

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Stained glass windows of Aleister Crowley, Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Cash, JG Ballard & many more

In 2010 and 2011 the English artist Neal Fox executed an utterly gorgeous series of stained-glass windows in imitation of the iconography of saints found in cathedrals all over Europe. The series included Johnny Cash, J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson, Albert Hofmann, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Serge Gainsbourg, Aleister Crowley, William S. Burroughs, Billie Holiday, and Francis Bacon.

Now, it’s perfectly possible that you will see these images and think, “Wow, those paintings in the stained-glass style are awesome.” So it’s important to emphasize that these are not paintings, Fox actually created the stained-glass windows themselves—in fact, he worked with traditional methods “at the renowned Franz Mayer of Munich manufacturer” in order to produce a dozen windows, each using leaded stained glass in a steel frame and standing 2.5 meters tall.

Put them all together in a room, as the Daniel Blau gallery in London did in 2011, and you have “an alternative church of alternative saints.” Here is what that room looked like:

The Daniel Blau show was called “Beware of the God.” Alongside the well-known provocateurs and trouble-makers like Crowley and Hawkins is a figure that might challenge even the most astute student of antiheroes, a man named John Watson. Far from the complacent invention of Arthur Conan Doyle, this John Watson is the artist’s grandfather, described by his loving grandson as a “hell raiser” and “a World War II bomber pilot, chat show host, writer and publisher, who in his post war years sought solace in Soho’s bohemian watering holes.”

Quoting the Daniel Blau exhibition notes:

As traditional church windows show the iconography of saints, through representations of events in their lives, instruments of martyrdom and iconic motifs, Fox plays with the symbolism of each character’s cult of personality; Albert Hoffman takes a psychedelic bicycle ride above the LSD molecule, J G Ballard dissects the world, surrounded by 20th Century imagery and the eroticism of the car crash, and Johnny Cash holds his inner demon in chains after a religious experience in Nickerjack cave.

You can order prints of some of these images for £150 each (about $214).


Many more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
New black tarantula spider species discovered near Folsom Prison is named after Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash and Aphonopelma johnnycashi
Johnny Cash and his eight-legged namesake tarantula spider, Aphonopelma johnnycashi

Aphonopelma johnnycashi is a new species of black tarantula spider that was just discovered roaming the hills near Folsom State Prison. The lockdown, near Sacramento, CA, is where Johnny Cash performed two historic shows inside the walls of the still operational correctional facility in 1968, captured on the iconic album, At Folsom Prison.
Aphonopelma johnnycashi
Aphonopelma johnnycashi
According to Biologist Chris Hamilton of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Aphonopelma johnnycashi was one of fourteen new tarantula species that were discovered in and around western Sierra Nevada mountains. The males of the species are predominately black and while there is no word on how big Cash’s eight-legged namesake is, Hamilton (who also sports a Johnny Cash tattoo, because science), had this to say about the newest arachnid to be named after rock and roll royalty:

Then once we looked at the genomics and looked at some of the ecological constraints, we could see this species was pretty unique and independent from the others that it’s closely related to.

Which fittingly sounds very much much like the Man in Black himself.

After the jump,Johnny Cash sings “Folsom Prison Blues”...

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The Bernie Sanders / Johnny Cash T-shirt mashup America has been waiting for
11:14 am


Johnny Cash
Bernie Sanders

Wear Dinner, the apparel purveyors who gave the world that wonderful Black Sabbath/Minor Threat mash-up we told you about last summer, have upped the I-want-one stakes with their new Bernie Cash shirt, which plops the face of encouragingly popular left-wing insurgent presidential candidate Bernie Sanders onto Jim Marshall’s indelible image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin prison in 1969, a juxtaposition that aptly captures a lot of the anti-establishment hostility expressed by some of the candidate’s backers.

The shirts are available only in black because duh. $5 from each shirt sold will benefit the Sanders campaign.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
We kinda totally love these Bernie Sanders punk rock t-shirts
‘Berned in D.C.’: Images of Bernie Sanders with hilarious fake punk rock quotes

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash’s rejected opening theme for ‘Thunderball’
08:47 am


Johnny Cash
James Bond

When the amusing podcast James Bonding, hosted by Matt Gourley and Matt Mira, got around to dealing with the ultra-boring, ultra-rapey (this is according to them, mind you) fourth installment of the James Bond franchise, Thunderball, things livened up considerably when they discussed the story behind the theme song.

Briefly, the theme song in the movie is sung by Tom Jones, who, legend has it, fainted upon completing the titanic final note of the song. That song had replaced a different song, sung by Shirley Bassey and, much later, by Dionne Warwick, which had the pretty unbeatable title of “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Albert Broccoli didn’t like that the song didn’t mention the name of the movie, so he shitcanned it.

But at some point Johnny Cash submitted a version, which would have been much more suitable for a spaghetti western and is, frankly, awesome. I’m prepared based on very little actual knowledge to assert that it’s better than any existing James Bond theme, and that includes the one from you-know-who and “this ever-changing world in which we’re living.” Sure, Cash’s version is a teensy bit stupid, but when you kick into that sweeping Morricone vibe, you can lead me just about anywhere.

A month later, according to Robert Hilburn’s Johnny Cash: The Life, Cash wrote a pretty similar song for the John Wayne movie The Sons of Katie Elder, and in all honesty it’s a little better.

You can find Cash’s “Thunderball” on the 2011 compilation Bootleg, Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash at San Quentin: Ten newly released photos
10:54 am


Johnny Cash
San Quentin

1968’s Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison is surely one of the greatest live albums of all time, but just about a year later, Cash recorded another stellar live album for an audience of prisoners, At San Quentin. I don’t think this is a terribly controversial opinion: for my money, San Quentin is the better of the two. Cash’s longtime guitarist Luther Perkins passed away in a tragic house fire in between the two recordings, and absent that familiar mooring, Cash’s sound feels wild, like the band’s ever teetering on the edge of coming unglued on San Quentin. With new guitarist Bob Wootten, Cash is energetic, loose, gnarly, and just much closer to primal rock than he’d been on the preceding LP. The version of “Wanted Man” on that album just goddamn flattens me every time I hear it, and it’s impossible to deny the classic status of “A Boy Named Sue.” But whichever prison album you prefer, this much is surely true: those two concerts probably saw the most raucous upswells of cheering and applause at the line “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” that Cash ever got out of any of his audiences.

That San Quentin performance was filmed by England’s Grenada television, and ten never before seen B&W still photos from the production have just been released by ITV. Prints are available for sale via Sonic Editions.




More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash’s musical ad for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1971
10:48 am


Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon

You are in no position to give health advice, Mr. Johnny Cash!
Johnny Cash certainly lived his paradoxes—a champion of the rebel, yet oddly reverent of the powerful. He sympathized publicly with the margins of society while simultaneously invoking a kind of nostalgic, rural wholesomeness. That in mind, it makes total sense that he’d do a public service announcement on physical fitness for Richard Nixon.

It’s not totally without its charms, either! The tune is catchy. “The man I used to be” is a pretty clever euphemism for “I got fat,” and the whole thing lends itself to that wistful reminiscing you want from a Johnny Cash. This was recorded only one year in of a seven-year period of sobriety. Before 1970 he was still doing insane amounts of pills, and engaging in super-wholesome activities like driving out to the wilderness all cranked up and accidentally setting fire to 508 acres of California National Forest.

I guess Nixon thought America needed a fitness spokesman who wouldn’t make us all feel bad about ourselves?

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
White House memo suggests Nixon ‘neutralize’ Johnny Cash, 1970
01:21 pm


Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon
Tex Ritter

Richard Nixon’s presidency was marked by a legendarily thick air of paranoia. Dick feared the Democrats—sure, but he also feared Jews, intellectuals, black people, Mexicans and a lot of run-of-the-mill, unremarkable whites, too. In fact, Nixon’s adviser Murray Chotiner (ironically, a Jew and former Democrat), felt that Johnny Cash might upset the Republican masterplan, and hoped Nixon would set him straight at a White House event.

The fear was that Cash would carry water for Tex Ritter, a colleague and country music legend who was then running for Tennessee’s Senate Republican primary. Predictably, Cash never actually endorsed Ritter, who eventually lost by a landslide. Two years later, Johnny would visit Nixon again to discuss prison reform. The story goes that Nixon requested “Okie from Muskogee,” a Merle Haggard song satirizing reactionary “good ole boys” that Nixon most likely went over Nixon’s head. It’s said that Cash snidely responded by playing a decidedly bleeding heart, anti-war set of “What Is Truth?” “The Man in Black,” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

I’d argue that Johnny Cash is a complex and powerful figure, and that it’s tempting to ascribe political dissidence to a man who was ultimately kind of a simple guy with a few very meaningful pet projects. Regardless, it’s fun to contemplate Nixon being concerned about Johnny Cash being a potential thorn in his side, even if the threat was only imagined. You can see footage and hear clips of the 1972 visit below, from the Nixon tapes. June even says that they’re praying for him.


Via Retronaut

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash does his Elvis impression
07:44 am


Johnny Cash
Elvis Presley
June Carter

In which one towering figure of 20th century American music good-naturedly ribs another…

“You know at just about all of our shows, and wherever we go, we usually do an impersonation… and we had a request here tonight to do an impersonation of a rock and roll singer…”

This is funnier than you think it’s going to be.

Interesting historical footnote to this, it was Elvis who first “introduced” Johnny Cash to June Carter. In her own words:

He was stooped down on one knee and grasping a guitar trying to tune it to somewhere near the correct pitch to make a correct cord ring - ‘Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down, Ah-ummm - A - ummm’ and he’d strike the guitar again. Plink: plunk: ‘A-ummm ...’ What are you trying to do, I asked. ‘I’m trying to tune this blame guitar, honey, and I’m trying to sing like Johnny Cash’. Who is Johnny Cash I asked Elvis Presley, and I grabbed the guitar away from him. Mother Maybelle would never let me or Elvis go on the stage with a guitar that was that far out of tune! What’s the a-um-a-um for? ‘That’s what drives the girls crazy’ Elvis said. ‘Cash don’t have to move a muscle, he just sings and stands there’. I don’t know this Johnny Cash I said, and Elvis said: ‘Oh you’ll know Cash. The whole world will know Johnny Cash. He’s a friend of mine’. So the whole tour, my first with Elvis, we went into small cafes all throughout the south and Elvis played Johnny Cash on the jukebox while I fought off the girls trying to get through Scotty, Bill and I to Elvis. And the thing I remember the very best was the voice of Johnny Cash singing ‘You’re gonna cry, cry, cry and you’ll cry alone!’. Somehow this low voice just penetrated my heart and spoke to my loneliness, for I had no lover in my life and there was a terrific loneliness in my soul. I had visions of myself screaming ‘Hey Porter’ and riding a lonesome train home.

I had been working at the Grand Ole Opry since 1950 with my mother Maybelle and sisters, Helen, Anita and Chester Atkins. I would rush home from a tour on Saturday nights back to the same routine of loneliness and this particular night, I found myself backstage trying to tune my guitar humming Ah-ummm Ah-Ummm, when all of a sudden, there he was! The voice was the same. Johnny Cash took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you’. The strangest feeling came over me. I was afraid to look him in the eyes. It was one of the things I did best. I never stammered and still found myself not able to say much of anything. I think I finally blurted out - I feel like I know you already. Elvis plays you on the jukebox all the time and he can’t tune his guitar without humming ‘Cry, Cry, Cry’ Now he’s got me doing it.

‘Why don’t you work with me on the road sometime?’ I’d like to I said. Hey, bring me one of your records. I’ve become a real fan.

I can’t remember anything else we talked about, except his eyes. Those black eyes that shone like agates. I only glanced into them because I believed that I would be drawn into his soul and I would never have been able to walk away, had he asked me to go with him. I felt that he was the most handsome man I’d ever met. I saw him take six encores that night. He had a command of his performance that I had never seen before. Just a guitar and a base and a gentle kind of presence that made not only me, but whole audiences become his followers. I walked away from him that evening.

The next time I saw Johnny Cash, he brought me his new record and we did find the time to talk together. Both of us afraid to look, and both afraid to see the lost and lonely souls that we were. For the next few years, I never saw him where I did not remember when, where and who he was with. John told me that after seeing him on stage that very first time in Nashville, he knew he was going to marry me. I guess neither of us ever forgot that. We walked away from each other and we both made some bad choices in our travels. I wondered if he has as hard a time with my blue eyes as I had with his, and after he wrote ‘I Still Miss Someone’ I think he might have really looked.

It took such a long time of praying and of walking away when I knew from first looking at him that his hurt was as great as mine, and from the depths of my despair, I stepped up to feel the fire and there is no way to be in that kind of hell, no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns. And so came the idea for the song ‘Ring Of Fire’. I was ashamed to tell John that I had always cared, that I couldn’t get him off my mind. Out of the loneliness came one song after another. There was so much hurt for both of us. And hurt for those we loved that only God could have pulled us out of that ‘Ring Of Fire’. For the last 35 years, I have been able to look into those black steel eyes and feel his love, and realize he always cared.

—from the liner notes for the Johnny Cash CD, Love.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch Bob Dylan in ‘Eat the Document’ (with John Lennon, Johnny Cash and The Band) while you can
01:34 pm


Bob Dylan
Johnny Cash
The Band

Eat the Document was intended to be a TV documentary on Bob Dylan’s 1966 European tour, produced for ABC Stage 67, a prestigious showcase for musicals, documentaries, original teleplays and short films (everything from a rock musical scored by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to a doc on Masters and Johnson to “Skaterdater”), but the network rejected it for being “incomprehensible.” The film captures the madness of that tour and was shot by D. A. Pennebaker, who’d also made Don’t Look Back, the documentary of Dylan’s 1965 tour. Pennebaker’s version was called “Something Is Happening.” The retitled Eat the Document was cut by Dylan himself with Howard Alk, but the network still didn’t want it.

Eat the Document wasn’t seen at all until the early 70s when it was screened at New York’s Academy of Music and the Whitney Museum. Shitty bootleg copies have floated around for decades (I had one that was barely watchable) but in recent years a super clean digital copy has been seen on torrent trackers, and occasionally on YouTube. Dylan was, and is, alleged to hate it, which is why you should probably watch this sooner rather than later. There’s always a bit of Whac-A-Mole going on with Eat the Document there, I’ve noticed.

In the film we see Dylan tired, jamming with Johnny Cash, onstage with The Band (then still called The Hawks) writing songs with Robbie Robertson and wearily dealing with members of the media. Some of the infamous footage of Dylan riding around in a limo with John Lennon (Lennon claimed Dylan had gotten him high on heroin beforehand) is also seen in the film.

Thank you Glen E. Friedman of New York City!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash play together, 1970
09:15 am


Johnny Cash
Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash
From 1969 to 1971, ABC aired The Johnny Cash Show first on Sundays but later on Wednesdays; it was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. One of the highlights of the show was the appearance of Louis Armstrong on the October 28, 1970 show. Less than a year before his death of a heart attack, Armstrong briefly sings “Crystal Chandeliers” and “Ramblin’ Rose” before Johnny Cash joins him onstage for a charming duet of the Jimmie Rodgers song “Blue Yodel #9.”

Not surprisingly, Cash knew his history. As he explains on the program, in 1930 Louis played on Rodgers’ recording of that same song, “Blue Yodel #9.” Louis’ voice is not heard on the number; he’s there strictly as a session musician. Louis’ wife, Lil Hardin Armstrong, is on the piano. Certainly Cash selected one of Louis’ rare appearances on a country track (if it can be so called) quite consciously to link the triumphant early period of Louis’ career to Cash himself.

Also, it gave Louis an excuse to put on a huge white cowboy hat at the Grand Ole Opry.

According to Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn,

Cash was especially proud of bringing Louis Armstrong onto the Ryman stage, where the jazz great had once been barred from performing because of his race. On the show, Armstrong re-created the trumpet solo he’d played on a Jimmie Rodgers recording of “Blue Yodel No. 9” in a 1930 session in Hollywood; Cash was thrilled to sing Rodgers’s part. By celebrating that historic pairing, Cash wasn’t just saluting his heroes; he was subtly underscoring his message of unity and tolerance.

To hear Louis’ familiar, scratchy voice join Johnny’s yodel chorus is a delight.
Jimmie Rodgers, “Blue Yodel No. 9,” 1930:

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash, The Johnny Cash Show, 1970:

via William Caxton Fan Club (a.k.a John Darnielle’s Tumblr)

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Louis Armstrong’s ham hocks and red beans recipe: ‘It is my birth mark’
How Johnny Cash was nearly killed by an ostrich in 1981

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash and The Cowsills would like to sing you a little ditty ‘bout Baby Jesus

What could have been more square in the late 1960s than a family band with MOM in it? The Cowsills became a badge for the co-optation of counterculture when they sang the theme song for Hair, and their rep for milky white safeness was cemented forever when The Partridge Family pilfered their schtick pretty much wholesale. But with a few decades elapsed between then and now, I think it’s no longer a betrayal of The Revolution to be OK with them, because ultimately, they just wanted to sing, and bland content or not, they sang very, very well. And while they do shoulder some blame for David Cassidy’s career, at least the Osmonds aren’t their fault.
cash/cow 2
WHAT THE—okay, maybe they weren’t entirely safe.

Here’s a seasonally timely clip of the Cowsills on The Johnny Cash Show, guesting with Cash on the gospel number “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Not only do they admirably hold their own backing up Cash’s rich basso voice, pay attention around 2:09, at which ten-year-old Susan Cowsill peers confidently into the camera and nails a solo verse. This, again, is a ten-year-old kid sitting next to Johnny By God CASH and singing with laudable poise. That talented little kid went on to gain a measure of hip cred playing in Dwight Twilley’s band in the ‘80s, and in The Continental Drifters with The dBs’ Peter Holsapple (her husband for a time). She continues to pursue an active solo career.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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
Merle Haggard does hilarious impressions of Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and other Country greats
11:31 am


Johnny Cash
Glen Campbell
Buck Owens
Merle Haggard

On his 1970 live album, The Fightin’ Side of Me, recorded in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day of 1970, Merle Haggard performs a medley of extremely convincing impersonations of well-known country music personalities including Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow and Buck Owens. His 5-minute-long “Medley of Impersonations” includes “Devil Woman,” “I’m Movin’ On,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Jackson,” “Orange Blossom Special,” and “Love’s Gonna Live Here.”

It’s hilarious. Flawless. The man truly could have been the Rich Little of Country & Western should he have wanted to go in that direction (although I’m sure glad he didn’t). It’s even better seeing him do the imitations, as he did on this 1969 episode of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Wait for the surprise guests…



Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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