Cash At Folsom Prison
By Steve Earle
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was
the first "country" record I ever listened to from beginning to end.
My uncle, Arlon Earle, owned it and we were visiting him in Jacksonville,
Texas. I first heard Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Jimmie Rodgers, and
Ray Price in that house — "hillbilly records" he called them, so I called
them that, too. As I got older and discovered the Beatles and the
Stones and Bob Dylan, only Johnny Cash survived the shift in my musical
tastes. Cash was different. He was a BADASS. He wore a lot
of black and he sang about murder and dope and adultery and ghosts.
He had genuine attitude. His music, more than anyone else's, was
simultaneously COUNTRY and ROCK.
In 1968 John had his own television show
and I NEVER, EVER missed it. I saw Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt and
in his first network appearance, Bob Dylan. All during the most formative
period in my musical life. Nothing else would influence as much as
that hour a week until I met Townes Van Zandt in 1972.
I finally met John in 1987 at a photo session
for a newspaper article publicizing a benefit we shared the bill on.
Present were John, myself, Waylon Jennings and Mark Germino. It was
John who noticed that everyone in the picture was wearing black except
In 1991 I dropped off the edge of the earth,
resurfacing in '95 by way of the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center.
Later that year Ry Cooder asked me to play electric guitar on John's contribution
of the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. (I got to "be" Luther
Perkins. How cool is that?) I hadn't seen John since I went
away and when I walked into the green room at 16th Avenue Sound, he was
standing over the pool table with his hand in an old fashioned picnic basket.
He looked up when I entered the room and said "Steve, would you like a
piece of tenderloin on a biscuit that June made this mornin'?" I
allowed how I would and he said "I knew that you would." Then we
went in and made a record — as if nothing bad had ever happened to either
one of us.
— Steve Earle, Troy, NY, June 1999