John R. ‘Johnny’ Cash February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003
Songwriter. Six-string strummer. Storyteller. Country boy. Rock star. Folk hero. Preacher. Poet. Drug addict. Rebel. Saint AND sinner. Victim. Survivor. Home wrecker. Husband. Father. Son. and more…
Today is the birthday of the ultimate Rock’n’Roll rebel the one and only Johnny Cash. We have covered Johnny’s life several times so much are we in awe of his life and his musical career so here we are going to concentrate on a short period of his life from June, 1969 to March, 1970.
In 1968 Johnny’s career came back with a bang following the success of his two live prison shows, 1968’s At Folsom Prison and 1969’s At San Quentin A. With his star firmly back in place he was rewarded with his own television show to be called quite simply The Johnny Cash Show. Earmarked as the Summertime replacement for The Hollywood Palace variety show it was short lived but has gone down in history thanks to Johnny and the way he ‘stepped outside the box’ by inviting some of the most interesting and influential artists of the time onto the show.
The first episode aired on June 7, 1969 taped at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the home to country music institution the Grand Ole Opry. It had been Johnny’s ambition to play there as a child and he had achieved that dream thirteen years earlier after his chart topping #1 ‘I Walk The Line’. That first episode featured performances by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, Cajun fiddler Dough Kershaw and to the shock of many, Bob Dylan. The Johnny Cash Show saw many memorable performances, from the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton to a segment of the show called ‘Country Gold’ which had guests as diverse as Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn and the Everly Brothers.
The ratings for The Johnny Cash Show were excellent (reaching #17 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings in 1970) and ABC extended the original run from 15 to 58 episodes but the end came early in 1971 after just 22 shows as part of the so-called ‘rural purge’ in which urban executives at all three major broadcast networks eliminated rural and older skewing programs. ABC viewing figures at the time were in massive decline and by cancelling one of their only successes it just goes to show how mismanaged the network was at the time. Never to be repeated it’s a disgrace that the copies of the shows lay unreleased in the vaults. A terrible mistake and we can only hope it is rectified soon. This is why the quality of some of the videos isn’t quite the best.
To celebrate of Johnny Cash’s 88th birthday we have trawled through You Tube to find you the best performances from The Johnny Cash Show. From his rendition of ‘The Long Black Veil’ with Joni Mitchell to the debut performance of his classic (and possibly THE ultimate protest song) ‘The Man in Black’ every song that left this mans lips meant something to him and to us. A man whose popularity crossed all borders creed, class and colour and was truly loved and cherished by all.
Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger – ‘Cripple Creek’/’Worried Man Blues’
Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’
Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell – ‘The Long Black Veil’
Johnny Cash – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’
Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong – ‘Blue Yodel #9’
Ray Charles – ‘Ring Of Fire’
Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Bad Moon Rising’
Stevie Wonder – ‘Heaven Help Us All’
Johnny Cash, John Hartford, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake – ‘Bill Monroe Medley’
Johnny Cash – ‘Man In Black’