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.
The first compilation / greatest hits album Johnny Cash released (or rather, the label released for him) was 1959’s appropriately titled, Greatest! 12 cuts, all from the Sun Records library, Greatest! is a breath of fresh, country air even 56 years after its initial release. I have no idea what LPs sold for back in 1959, but this one set me back only $3 just last weekend. Inflation be damned, am I right? Anyway, Greatest! contains some classic, early Cash greats such as Get Rhythm, Luther’s Boogie, a few Hank Williams numbers (Hey, Good Lookin’, You Win Again), and some lesser known classics to round out a full, pertinent collection of tragic songs. Greatest! may not be Cash’s greatest, but it’s worth seeking out.
Feeling a bit on the homesick side of things lately, and it doesn’t get more “home-y” than J.R. Cash. This 1968 copy of the 2-LP set, The Heart of Johnny Cash was owned by my Grandfather, and was one of the great, many Cash albums I acquired after his inevitable, yet unfortunate death. What I wouldn’t give to share a whiskey and a spin with him now.
Johnny Cash, the perfect remedy for the homesick blues.
Listen, for reasons that transcend both you and me, J. R. Cash holds, and will always hold, a deep-rooted seed of importance with me (and my Midwestern upbringing). Bruce McCulloch put it accurately when he said that Greatest Hits albums were for housewives and little girls, BUT, I must state that a little gathering of the goods, if you will, is nothing of an ill-comprised representation of one’s output. Are there better albums of Mr. Cash’s to be had? Shame on you for asking. Does this one hold sentimental value far more than any top 40 single on the bullshit charts? You bet your ass! I’ll be as gone as a wild goose in winter…and I welcome you all to join me.
RIP J. R. Cash.
(Thanks to the SO for the title… 😉 ) Happy-ily (for those of you who are Vacant Lot fans) Thanksgiving!! The lady had to work today, so tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the Day of Thanks. Currently listening to Johnny Cash’s Greatest hits Volume 1, and yes, “house wives and little girls” aside, (Bruce McCulloch), I hope ever-body done had them-selves a damn-good day! (23.95 lbs this year, btw…)
Many thanks to the previous, and anonymous owner of my copy of the Sun Records released, The Million Dollar Quartet, for mummifying this 1986 magazine article, shining light upon, arguably, the most prolific, and storied combination of talented musicians the modern age has ever witnessed. Celebrated evening reading material, for sure. Perhaps I’ll transcribe it someday… perhaps.