Johnny Cash Performs “Folsom Prison Blues” Live In Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash / YouTube
In 1968, Johnny Cash recorded an entire album for prisoners at Folsom State Prison, and of course, he performed his song “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Cash first released “Folsom Prison Blues” in 1955 as a single and it was later included on his debut studio album Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar.
Johnny Cash’s Journey To Folsom Prison
Since he released his song “Folsom Prison Blues,” Cash wanted to perform it live at Folsom Prison, but his record company kept saying no…until Bob Johnston took over handing Cash’s music at Columbia Records. Finally, on January 13, 1968, Cash and his band descended upon the high-security penitentiary in California, creating a momentous live album that would forever alter the landscape of country music and resonate as a symbol of empathy for the incarcerated.
Armed with his guitar and a genuine connection to the incarcerated, Cash electrified the captive audience with his raw, distinctive voice and his rebellious spirit. His performance transcended the confines of the prison walls, forging a powerful bond between the artist and the inmates. The recording, which became the album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, captured not only the energy and excitement of the moment but also the complex emotions of confinement, longing, and redemption.
The album was an statement of solidarity with those behind bars. In an era when society often turned a blind eye to the plight of the incarcerated, Cash used his platform to humanize them, recognizing their struggles, hopes, and regrets. The album served as a reminder that the human spirit can transcend even the harshest circumstances, and that redemption and forgiveness are universal desires.
Despite not having much marketing backing the album, it hit number one on the charts and the live version of “Folsom Prison Blues” was Cash’s first Top 40 hit in several years. By 2003, the album was certified triple platinum for exceeding 3.4 million in sales.
Thanks to the success and impact of the album it was the first of a series of live albums being recorded at prisons including 1969’s At San Quentin and 1973’s På Österåker, which was recorded at Österåker Prison in Sweden.
While there is no video of Johnny Cash’s live Folsom Prison album, the audio is absolutely incredible.