December 15: Johnny Cash released the single, Folsom prison blues in 1955

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Folsom Prison Blues is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Johnny Cash. The song combines elements from two popular folk genres, the train song and the prison song, both of which Cash would continue to use for the rest of his career. It became one of Cash’s signature songs. It was the eleventh track on his debut album With His Hot and Blue Guitar but was also included (same version) on All Aboard the Blue Train. Folsom Prison Blues was in the country Top Five in 1956, though Cash had written it while in the Air Force somewhere before 1954.

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Jan 13: Johnny Cash recorded At Folsom Prison in 1968

“Folsom Prison looms large in Johnny Cash’s legacy, providing the setting for perhaps his definitive song and the location for his definitive album, At Folsom Prison. The ideal blend of mythmaking and gritty reality, At Folsom Prison is the moment when Cash turned into the towering Man in Black, a haunted troubadour singing songs of crime, conflicted conscience, and jail.”
~Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com)

One of the best live albums in recording history was taped on this date in 1968, hell, it’s one of the best albums period. Today it is it’s 48-year anniversary.

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Dec 5: Johnny Cash played MSG, New York in 1969

Johnny Cash at Madison Square Garden is an album by Johnny Cash that was recorded in December 1969 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but which was not released until 2002 (making it his 86th album overall).

The album was recorded just 4 months after Cash’s seminal At San Quentin was released, which is probably why it was not released soon after its recording. As with all Cash live shows of this period, he was backed up by the Tennessee Three, which consisted of W.S. Holland, Marshall Grant and Bob Wooton. After the first 11 songs, Johnny Cash took a short break and the guests stepped up to the plate with their current hits. As if Johnny wasn’t enough, we get Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers in tremendous form. The Carter Family was a standard part of the Johnny Cash Show, and it is a real treat hearing Mother Maybelle with her daughters. They also performs back up vocals on many of the songs.

As with most Cash shows, the genres covered ran the gamut from country music to rockabilly to even some folk rock. Similarly to “Johnny Cash At San Quentin”, Johnny Cash at Madison Square Garden includes numbers performed by Perkins, the Statlers and the Carters while Johnny was offstage.

It is an absolute must have for any Johnny Cash fan. I still wonder why Sony took 33 years to release this gem.

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