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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.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Steve Martin and Richard Pryor on ‘The Tonight Show,’ 1978
08.15.2012
12:13 pm

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Television

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Steve Martin
Richard Pryor


 
Steve Martin conducted this awkward/awesome interview with Richard Pryor when he was the guest hosting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on June 19, 1978. Glen Campbell was also on the couch that night.

Shout Factory is putting out a DVD box set of Steven Martin’s 70s television work, Steve Martin: The Television Stuff on September 18th.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Steve Martin reading a book on Bob Dylan circa 1970
06.27.2012
11:38 am

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Books
Literature
Music
Pop Culture

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Bob Dylan
Steve Martin


 
Just thought I’d share this great photo of Steve Martin—long before his hair turned gray—circa 1970. Martin had been a staff writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which had been canceled by CBS the year before.

Source: Mr. Garcia at Flickr.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:

Steve Martin promo video for ‘A Wild And Crazy Guy,’ 1978

Steve Martin’s funny response to fan mail

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Steve Martin promo video for ‘A Wild And Crazy Guy,’ 1978
06.20.2012
02:25 pm

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Amusing
Pop Culture

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Steve Martin


 
Hilarious record store “sales tool” made by Steve Martin to promote his 1978 comedy album, A Wild And Crazy Guy. The LP went on to become one of the biggest selling comedy albums of all time, eventually being certified double platinum.

I saw the “Wild And Crazy Guy” tour when I was in the seventh grade, at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh on January 13, 1978. We were seated so far away that it could have practically been anybody with grey hair in a white three-piece suit and an arrow through his head.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Steve Martin has not died!
11.30.2010
10:00 am

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Amusing

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Steve Martin

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No need to correct me in the comments… it’s been fixed below.
 
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(via Certified Bullshit Technician)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy
06.23.2010
03:35 pm

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Amusing
Heroes

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Steve Martin

image
 
In 1978, when I was in the seventh grade, I was a total fanatic for Steve Martin. Comedy was as important to me at that time as punk rock was and Steve Martin, Fernwood 2Night, National Lampoon, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Marx Brothers and (especially) the Firesign Theatre were every bit the equal of the Clash or Sex Pistols in my eyes.

I saw Steve Martin “in concert” on the A Wild and Crazy Guy tour just as his career went supernova. King Tut was in the singles charts (I still have the picture sleeve 45) at the time and his latest album had just gone double platinum. Martin, is of course, still a big star, but in 1978, he was a rock star among comedians, arguable the biggest.

It was the first really big show I’d ever seen, held at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, a venue normally reserved for the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Emerson. Lake and Palmer. The place was huge and we sat in the very, very last row of the section furthest back from the stage. I get vertigo easily and it was acute for me sitting there, but no matter, I was about to see one of my heros in person!

When Steve Martin walked out onto the stage that night, frankly he could have been anybody with a white 3-piece suit (his then trademark attire), grey hair, some balloon animals and an arrow through his head. He was so far away that it was impossible for him to have had any rapport with the cheap seats other than to do the standard “How are we doin’ up there?” banter. But like I gave a shit, I was in heaven. Here I was in the same room with Steve Martin!  Well me and 11,000 other people…

The encore, predictably, was King Tut. Performing to a recorded backing track, at one point an electric guitar was lowered from the flies, Martin grabbed it, attacking it furiously, strumming five chords in the space of about two or three seconds and up and and away it went again. I was buzzing about this show for at least the next three days.

Below are some examples of primo 70s Steve Martin appearances and an in-concert clip of King Tut. I noticed that one guy on YouTube has a 7 DVD set of Steve Martin on TV in the 70s. I might have to get that.

 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Steve Martin’s funny response to fan mail
06.04.2010
09:15 pm

Topics:
Amusing

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Steve Martin

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Read the full story behind Steve Martin’s letter over at Chattering Teeth.
 
(via Mister Honk)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment