• Robert Scovill

Johnny Cash "Live At Folsom Prison"

When Johnny Cash is in front of any audience, amazing things are in store. Especially so here.

"Ya know, there are icons in our business, and then there is an echelon above that reserved for the Johnny Cash’s of the world of which there are certainly less than a handful.”

December 21st, Welcome to the PM edition of Live Vinyl Lovefest. I’ve been on the slopes all day and missed the AM delivery deadline for todays post. But it IS “Fantabulous-Friday” and we all know that Friday is reserved for the most legendary and epic live albums of all time. Today’s choice certainly fits that billing. Ladies and gents will you please rise for “Johnny Cash At San Quentin”

Ya know, there are icons in our business, and then there is an echelon above that reserved for the Johnny Cash’s of the world of which there are certainly less than a handful. Just try to wrap your head around this little factoid for a second; “At San Quentin” was Cash’s 31st album release. That was in 1969. Yeah, just think about that for a second. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

The “At San Quentin” album was the 2nd in a series in Cash’s conceptual series of prison albums. These were not only landmark shows because of their setting, but landmark recordings as well. And of course many of you know the tale of the signature tune “Boy Named Sue” as it and “San Quentin” would be performed for the very first time at this show. “Boy Named Sue” was in fact so new that John had the lyrics to it posted on a music stand as he performed it. Johnny Cash won the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for that song. That’s what we in the biz call “having an ability to throw down”.

Another awesome little diddy that I didn’t know about this show until just recently was that, the iconic picture of John flipping the bird full frontal to a camera was captured here. Although the circumstances surrounding who exactly the gesture was aimed at are in question, there is little doubt in the meaning of the gesture. Johnny Cash. Say no more.

I have not been able to find much, if any, background info on the actual recording of this show. I really wish I could dig it up, but it has been a dry well so far. But I will share with you this little gem from the back cover. I just love this. On the back in big bold letters is printed; COLUMBIA STEREO RECRODS CAN BE PLAYED ON TODAY’S MONO RECORD PLAYERS WITH EXCELLENT RESULTS. THEY WILL LAST AS LONG AS MONO RECORDS PLAYED ON THE SAME EQUIPMENT, YET WILL REVEAL FULL STEREO SOUND WHEN PLAYED ON STEREO RECORD PLYAERS. Whaaaa? I mean how they hell did they do that??? It’s science I tell ya! Science!

While Johnny Cash has been in my windshield for as long as I can remember, I never got the chance to work with him. Superior Sound, the company I got my start with in Kansas City used to support regional shows for John but those shows were reserved for the AAA#1 crew members of which I certainly was not a member of at that time. The crews would always come back with fantastic stories from those shows.

I also have such vivid memories of the Johnny Cash TV show that ran for a number of years along with the song “Boy Named Sue”. Ya see, as a young boy, Mom would wake me up in the morning and I would slug upstairs from my room for breakfast. Dad’s radio was always sitting on top of the fridge and on at the perfect volume. It was just out of reach and I’m certain the reason was so that NO ONE even dare change that radio station. And for what seemed like my entire childhood, that radio would play the song “Boy Named Sue” at least once every morning before I went to school. Every. Single. Morning. I’m not kidding. It was welded into my consciousness.

But it didn’t diminish my love for Johnny Cash and June Carter’s music. The closest I ever got to them though, was through my work with Tom Petty and by hearing The Heartbreakers share countless stories of recording with John and hanging out with June. The late Howie Epstein was involved with Carlene Carter at the time and a few years earlier he had produced a fantastic record for her called “I Fell In Love”. That album was on my CD player a LOT that year … it was the year I got married. My wife Mary Jo and I share a lot of very fond memories while listening to that CD. Many people have asked me if my 1st child, my daughter, was named after Carly Simon because she regularly goes by “Carly”. Uh, no. She is named after the woman singing the title track of that CD. Today is Carlene Scovill’s 23rd birthday. Happy birthday my love. You are ALL THAT and a whole lot more.

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