So, Netflix has a new documentary out featuring the late, great Johnny Cash titled, Tricky Dick & the Man in Black (episode 2 of season 1 of the Remastered series, a Netflix original, or so they tell me). It’s well worth checking out, even for the casual JC fan. Featured in the doc is a very short mention of the commercially unsuccessful 1964 album, Bitter Tears – Ballads of the American Indian. If you watch the 59 minute episode, you can’t miss it. This copy found its way into the library by means of my grandfather, and like the doc, is well worth the time.
Released in 1969, Okie from Muskogee was Merle Haggard and The Strangers’ first live album, likely attempting to mimic the success of ’68’s At Folsom Prison by the Man in Black. Okie was recorded, of all places, in Muskogee, Oklahoma in October of ’69, which was, apparently, a day before the studio album started making the country charts, or so Wikipedia would have us believe. Though I prefer the studio version, to hear the live version, recorded in the town that the track is about, is a pretty decent substitute.
In addition to authoring classic children’s books (Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic were grade school favorites for me, as I assume they were for you), and many other vast and treasured avenues, Shel Silverstein was a prolific songwriter. He wrote hits for Loretta Lynn, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, and of course, for Johnny Cash on arguably one of his most famous tracks, A Boy Named Sue. Mr. Silverstein’s history, one I’m soon to further explore, dates back to the Elektra label with his 1959 album, Hairy Jazz. Good luck finding a copy on the cheap, and if you have an extra one, thank you in advance for sending it my way.
Presented here is a live album featuring three unquestionable legends: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The album, containing 12 songs, was recorded in West Germany back in 1981 when all three artists were on tour. The collaboration was an improvised little piece of country music history as Perkins and Lewis, during their night off, joined Cash on stage for what was originally intended to be a Cash-only performance. The result, is three Sun Record kings performing the songs that made them famous. Thanks again for the folks for this little gem. The Survivors comes highly recommended.
If you’re in the mood for a fantastic (country) duet album, (and let’s be honest, who among us isn’t?) look no further than Columbia Records’ 1967 classic, Carryin’ on With Johnny Cash and June Carter. Though the Ray Charles and Bob Dylan tracks are great, it’s Jackson that’ll get everyone’s feet leaving the floor. In my ongoing quest to complete my Johnny Cash discography, this much-needed album was a thoughtful gift from my second-hand-hunting parents. Thanks again, guys!
Storms of rumors surround this “historic” day in Memphis, TN some 61 years ago. It is alleged, with some photographic evidence (take the cover, for example), that during a Carl Perkins recording session at Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis (then a young-fresh-fellow on the brink of superstardom), Elvis Presley, and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash recorded 30+ minutes of (mainly gospel) material for what turned out to be dubbed, The Million Dollar Quartet. The recording is heavy Elvis, and sounds much more like an unscripted, haphazard practice session of studio musicians than anything resembling a million dollars ($9,068,492.65 today). Johnny Cash’s presence is all but nonexistent, which raises questions to the album photo’s legitimacy (the official Sun Records release from 1981 has Marilyn Evans, Elvis’ then girlfriend, removed from the photo altogether). This bootleg version was released a year earlier by OMD, and is the only known release by the unknown label. Regardless of the recording’s legitimacy, it’s an educational spin and a gem of a find. Take it with a grain of salt, but enjoy nonetheless.
Another day, yet another Johnny Cash acquisition. This one, Songs of Our Soil, comes all the way from 1959. Look how young he is! Anyway, we’ve been slicing a sizable chunk out of our needed J.R. Cash discography lately, so this weekend, we’re going to try and keep that train a’rollin! (Heading to an old stomping ground for some cheap, quality, used records.) Wish us luck!
Johnny Cash Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous is a terrific starting point for any up-and-coming Cash fan. Though his second LP, it contains an all-star lineup of (early) greatest hits proportions. Remember, this isn’t a compilation album, just the man’s second full-length effort. Big River, I Walk the Line, Ballad of a Teen-age Queen, Next in Line, Home of the Blues, There You Go, and Guess Things Happen That Way… and that’s only about half of the album. If you own it, spin it. If you don’t have it, I recommend holding out for the original. Reissues have their time and place, but with J. R. Cash, it’s go original, or go the hell home.
I’m excited to start my collection of reissue debut classics from the seminal four from Sun Records. First acquired is Roy Orbison’s At the Rock House (originally released in 1961). Somewhere in transit is Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1958 debut of the same name, and down the pike will be Dance Album of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash’s With His Hot and Blue Guitar. As you can plainly see, Roy’s reissue is on rockin’ red vinyl, where Mr. Lewis’ is on sleek silver. Carl’s is on blue suede, and Cash’s on fire orange. A great (and cheap) way to acquire these rock n’ roll classics.
In 1984, Rhino Records, with exclusive license from Sun International Corporation, released this beautiful Greatest Hits album as a radiant picture disc. Long gone were the rights to Elvis, but each of the other legendary Sun Records icons are present. Roy Orbison doing Ooby Dooby, Carl Perkins doing Honey Don’t and Blue Suede Shoes, Billy Lee Riley doing Red Hot, Junior Parker with Feelin’ Good and Mystery Train, Jerry Lee Lewis with Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, and of course, Johnny Cash with Folsom Prison Blues. It’s worth owning even if picture discs are prone to skip (and they are).
Was flipping though a November, 1969 issue of Life magazine last night, you know, the one with “The Rough-cut King of Country Music” on the cover, aka Johnny Cash, and I came across this amazing full page ad for Time Life Records’ 6x LP box set, To the Moon. I’d acquired this piece of Americana at my brick and mortar about a year ago (the box set, not the magazine… I have my wonderful folks to thank for that one), and I’ve been a bit obsessed with it after the reissue announcement of the Voyager Golden Record box set (Kickstarter), so let’s just say I was a bit beside myself and had to do a double take upon its random discovery in the Life magazine that had been sitting on our living room table for the better part of three years. Man can step foot on the Moon, but I can’t discover a 47 year old record advertisement sitting beneath my nose. For shame.
Anyway, have a read, then head over to Discogs to nab this essential box set for next to nothing. She’s currently $7.50 for the full set (that’s 6x LPs and a 192 page, hardcover book, kids), and if you’re feeling REALLY interplanetary, back the Voyager Golden Record on Kickstarter. You’ll thank me later.
The newest member to the ever-growing family of “necessary must haves” is Johnny Cash’s 2nd album, Sings the Songs that Made Him Famous. You know, I have half a mind to stop shopping brick & mortars all together. That’s the fluid ease of finding specific releases at specific grades for specific amounts, online, talking, not the logic that surrounds any given search at said B&M. Sure, I’m a strong advocate for RSD, and local mom and pops in general, but there is no way in Mississippi Hell that I’d be able to head to my local shop, specifically looking for this 58 year old record, and walk out with this precise pressing for the price I paid for it online ($14 shipped). Well, I guess the element of surprise is the draw, and for that I’m willing to continue the exercise. Any way you cut the meat, happy Monday, kids.
The comp work on the cover of Johnny Cash’s The Blue Train is borderline laughable (sorry Betty Cherry), but that doesn’t diminish the phenomenal tracks it houses. A late 70’s comp released by Sun Records long after J. R. Cash left the label, The Blue Train lifts five of its tracks (half of the record) from the 1963 album, All Aboard the Blue Train, also released on Sun Records. Repackaging and repurposing was certainly nothing new by 1979 standards, but the lack of attention to detail deserves strong criticism, at least, in my humble opinion. Anyway, happy Friday!
1978’s Willie and Family Live is a great collection of heartfelt confessions told by one of the last remaining living legends of the country music genre, Willie Hugh Nelson. Kicking off this 28-track double LP (not including the 6-part medley) is the lively classic, Whiskey River (a raging thoroughfare we’ve all battled in one way or another, some more frequently than others). While my soul goes out to Johnny Cash, my heart goes to Willie Nelson. His impartial sincerity is as humbling as it is overwhelming, and as a live act, few standing have as much stage wisdom as Mr. Nelson. It’s going to be a sad day when we lose this one.