Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Johnny Cash!

77 years ago today the Man In Black, John R. Cash was born in Kingsland , Arkansas. In celebration of his life and the music he’s shared I’d like to invite any and all of our readers to share their favorite Johnny Cash song, story, or memory. I’ll get things going with mine. It’s a story of how file-sharing led me to spend countless dollars on an artist I’d previously never had any interest in and how I met Johnny Cash.

It took a bit of a roundabout path for me to discover Johnny Cash’s catalog of musical work. Growing up outside of Chicago and then shipping out to finish high school at boarding school in CT, I didn’t have much exposure to the Cash brand of music. Sure, I knew “Boy Named Sue” and “Ring of Fire”; his tunes that were in every jukebox (even in Chicago and Connecticut), but I hadn’t really gotten into the full body of work and what I had heard was only in passing. Then I went to college, just as high-speed internet and this thing called Napster were sweeping across campuses nationwide; eating up bandwidth along the way, pissing off university IT heads, and keeping college kids very entertained and distracted from their studies.

I’d met a girl at school from Texas and with this new technology she had downloaded a bunch of songs and burned me a CD (a mix CD! Who’d a thunk it?) that included a number of tunes that leaned a little more to the south than I was accustomed and more towards the country and western end of the musical spectrum. There were a couple Johnny Cash songs on that mix. I think “Daddy Sang Bass” and “Folsom Prison Blues”. I couldn’t get enough of that sound. I even caught my roommate from New Hampshire singing along, “…daddy sang bass, mama sang tenor…” at one point.

Those few songs and the ease of file-sharing at that time allowed me to expand my Johnny Cash collection pretty rapidly. I don’t want to ramble too long about the good and bad of such file-sharing programs, but I will say this, that introduction to Johnny Cash led to many dollars being spent on the gathering of much of his catalogue of work.

The exchange of music during the Christmas season is always a big deal in my family. That year Johnny Cash was the centerpiece of all musical gifts from me. I’d talked about him so much and as a family we’d been listening to him so much that they bought ME CD’s of his too. We’d found the rare artist that suited all our musical tastes and that we enjoyed listening to together.

Over the years that followed my family has bought and accumulated much of the entire Johnny Cash recorded material that is out there; old and new. We enjoy most all of it. We chased down concert posters and 8X10’s on ebay and maybe most important Johnny Cash introduced us to other artists that we came to enjoy and follow.

I was a little late in discovering the man and his music but a touch ahead of his latest resurgence in popularity with “Hurt” and his bio-pic. I’m grateful for the file-sharing that allowed for the discovery and for it coming at all. I take pride in being able to now sprinkle my vocabulary with the occasional, “…cavorting in Davenport “ and “…said, I fooled you. I fooled you…” or “in the mud and the blood and the beer..” and having people (some people at least) know what I’m talking about. So, in honor of the Man In Black go take a listen in honor of all that he left us.

Seeing that this is a live music forum...If you don’t have it go get yourself a copy of Live At Folsom . It’s one of my personal favorite live recordings of all time and my favorite Johnny Cash. I also have to recommend checking out his autobiography CASH by Johnny Cash for when you’re in the reading mood and if you’re in Brooklyn or nearby this weekend Alex Battles and Whiskey Rebellionwill be playing their annual birthday show in Johnny Cash’s honor this Saturday at Southpaw by performing his entire live performance from San Quentin.

Happy Birthday Johnny Cash!

(post written by Jim Longstreet)


  1. My favorites are Big River, Ring of Fire, Cry Cry Cry, Busted, Bad New and Cocaine Blues. I guess all three CDs of The Essential Johnny Cash.

  2. top three: Mean-eyed cat, boy named sue, and rusty cage

  3. My favorites are 'Green Grass Of Home' and 'Busted'.