In 1955, a young Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a song called “Folsom Prison Blues”. Merging the popular folk themes of prisons and trains, the song would typify Cash’s outlaw image and musical style for many years to come. It wasn’t until 1968, however, that the song would take on a whole new life when Cash performed it live at the actual Folsom State Prison in Folsom, CA on January 13th, 1968.
Cash was interested in performing at a prison for many years, though problems with both drugs and management put the idea on hold. Once Cash had sobered up in 1967, and Columbia Records was run by a new executive in Bob Johnston, the plans were set in motion. On January 13, 1968, Johnny Cash held his first-ever prison performance with two sets played throughout the day, which would result in the now-famous live album At Folsom Prison. The album was released a few months later on May 6th, and went on to reach No. 1 on the country charts.
The album revitalized Johnny Cash’s career, which had suffered up to that point due to drug abuse problems throughout the early 60s. At Folsom Prison has since reached triple platinum status by the RIAA.
Listen to one of Cash’s most acclaimed albums below.
Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison