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Johnny Cash – San Quentin (Live at San Quentin, 1969)Comments(0)
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue (Live at San Quentin, 1969)Comments(0)
Hard on the heels of 1968’s Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, his best-selling album to that point, came Johnny Cash At San Quentin. Recorded two days before Cash’s 37th birthday and released in 1969, this follow-up proved even more successful, soaring all the way to the top of Billboard‘s album charts and staying there for four weeks. Like At Folsom Prison, San Quentin would be RIAA-certified multi-platinum.
In addition to being his lone LP to reach number one, the live set at the notoriously tough California penitentiary was marked by Cash unveiling a goofily pugnacious novelty song. When “A Boy Named Sue,” written by the late Playboy cartoonist, humorist, and songwriter, Shel Silverstein, found its way beyond the prison walls and onto America’s airwaves in the Woodstock Summer of ’69, it was a nearly-instant smash. At one time it topped both the country and adult contemporary charts and made it to number two on the pop survey, eventually selling in excess of a million copies.
But then, in 1969 everything “The Man In Black” touched turned to gold. During that year, Cash began to catch on with the counter-culture, thanks in part to a guest appearance by Bob Dylan on his ABC TV program. This was Dylan’s way of thanking Cash, with whom he’d sung a duet on the Nashville Skyline album (and wrote the GRAMMY-winning liner notes) that helped broaden the younger artist’s audience to more open-eared country fans. The two also collaborated on “Wanted Man,” an outlaw ballad performed herein.
Here with Cash is the troupe that toured with him for years. It included his wife, June Carter Cash, her sisters, Helen and Anita, their mother, Maybelle Carter (of country music’s seminal Carter Family), as well as Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers, headliners in their own right. Sadly, the famous “Tennessee Three” had lost guitarist Luther Perkins the year before in a fire, replaced here by Bob Wootton.
But this is Cash’s moment, and whether he’s doing one of his Sun Records rockabilly classics (“I Walk The Line”) or Columbia hits, a happy, Nashville-flavored pop tune (the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darlin Companion”), an original jailhouse ballad (“San Quentin”), or a deeply-moving spiritual (“Peace In The Valley”), he connects with audiences everywhere as few other artists ever have. Produced by Bob Johnston (who was also Dylan’s producer at the time), At San Quentin presents the enduring power that is Johnny Cash.