Tag Archives: Kris Kristofferson

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW (1970)

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…

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I was rather fortunate to grow up with The Man In Black in my ear. It was thanks to my Mum who kept up a steady stream of Johnny Cash, Rock’n’Roll and Irish-Folk that me and my siblings all developed huge interests in music. Johnny himself may have passed away sixteen years ago but interest in him and his life still hasn’t waned and as new material is periodically released it is snapped up eagerly by fans old and new. He still remains the coolest man ever in Rock’n’Roll.

The Johnny Cash Show was Johnny’s 35th album and was released to tie in with the TV series that he was hosting at the time. From the summer of 1969 through to spring 1971, pretty much the whole of America sat down together in front of the TV set waiting for the famous opening line “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”. The perfect gentleman with an indomitable spirit and down to earth grit the ever popular Johnny struck a chord with people right across the country. All creeds, classes and colours were united in their love for this great man. His willingness to take risks is what made his show incomparable. Johnny knew talent when he saw or heard it, and his word meant a lot. So, it was no small feat, nor beyond reasonable expectations, that many reclusive stars joined Cash on the pilot show. Though this album is one of Cash’s lesser-known records, it did spawn the highly successful single ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’, which helped kick start the career of singer-songwriter turned actor Kris Kristofferson with the song and album eventually both going on to reach #1.

This song is about the dreaded hangover, with Johnny singing about ‘coming down’ on a Sunday morning after being ‘stoned’ on a Saturday night. In the song, our hero puts on his cleanest dirty shirt, drinks a few beers, and heads out to face a lonely day.

Well I woke up Sunday mornin’, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more, for dessert
Then I fumbled through my closet, for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I shaved my face and combed my hair and, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I’d smoked my brain the night before on, cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched a small kid cussin’ at a can, that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’, that I’d lost somehow somewhere along the way

On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

In the park I saw a daddy, with a laughing little girl who he was swingin’
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the song that they were singin’
Then I headed back for home and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

Before Johnny performed the song on The Johnny Cash Show, ABC censors asked him to change the lyric, “Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned” to “Wishing, Lord, that I was home” but never being one to accept being told what to do Johnny sang the song the way Kris Kristofferson wrote it, even stressing the word ‘stoned’!

( Sadly none of the series have been released officially so any that appear the sound and picture quality is definitely not DVD quality. What does appear are random performances some better than others. Here athough the possibility of a third season existed, Cash knew the writing was on the wall. The last twelve minutes of the last episode of the last Johnny Cash Show features Cash performing ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’, ‘He’ll Understand And Say Well Done’, The Statler Brothers singing ‘When You And I Were Young’, June Carter singing ‘Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes’, Carl Perkins playing ‘Your True Love’, the Carter Family singing ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies’ and Cash’s final words to his television audience)

The ratings for the show were excellent (reaching #17 in the nationwide Nielsen ratings in 1970) and ABC extended the original 15 show run to a whopping 58 (fifty-eight!) episodes. The end of the series came in 1971 as the show was cancelled 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 over all were in massive decline and so they cancelled one of their only successes a horrifying testimony to just how mismanaged the network was at the time. That the copies of all the shows still lay unreleased in the vaults is I think a terrible mistake and we can only hope someone pulls their finger out about it soon.

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With the exception of the album’s obvious highlight, ‘Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down’, each of these songs sings of the history of the working man in the United States with the centerpieces of the album the two jaw dropping medleys: the first concerning truckers, the other concerning the cotton belt. Performed with backing vocals and music by the Tennessee Three, The Statler Brothers, and The Carter Family and Bill Walker’s Orchestra the closing performance of the spoken word ‘Here Was A Man” is a superb piece of Gospel and shows how easily Johnny could turn his hand to different styles.

To these ears though it sounds like classic Cash. His voice instantly taking me back to my childhood of sitting round the record player listening to my mammy’s Johnny Cash collection. All the adults I knew, especially the Irish ones, seemed to be a massive fan of his with their record collections bulging with his albums. it was impossible not to like him. The subject matter was so much darker than other country artists and lets face it he was as cool a fecker as ever there was in music! He was himself the quintessential Scotch-Irish American, with a bit of Native American too he use to say!

Johnny Cash  WebSite  Facebook  YouTube  The Johnny Cash Trail  

(this amazing video popped up on my feed recently and it never takes much to set me off on The Man In Black so give it a twirl. Its great to hear Johnny just chatting away and the animation is top notch capturing Johnny perfectly)

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