The Day Johnny Cash Rocked Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash had his share of troubles and vices in his lifetime, but he never did prison time. Despite this, nobody in music history is more associated with the clink than the Man in Black. It's interesting that Cash is much more tied to the struggles and frustrations of prison life than the legions of pop, rock and country music stars who have actually had to serve a sentence.
The legendary country singer first learned of prison life – particularly, life in Folsom State Prison – through the movies. He was a member of the U.S. Air Force Security Service in 1953, when his unit watched the film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison. It was that movie that inspired Cash to write one of his early songs, "Folsom Prison Blues," in which he imagined what a prisoner felt like. After signing with Sun Records, "Folsom Prison Blues" became Cash's second single – a #1 country hit and a Top 40 pop hit in 1955.
Although Cash had never been in prison, he apparently captured the feeling of being incarcerated perfectly. The song became very popular with those doing time, who wrote letters to the country star thanking him for writing the tune and sometimes asking him to come perform at their prisons. By 1957, he obliged some inmates, by performing at Huntsville State Prison. The event went over so well that Cash continued this practice, playing concerts at prisons around the U.S. He had the idea for recording a live album at one such show, although the proposal was rejected by the country executives at Columbia Records. more on this story
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