Though Johnny Cash passed away in 2003, “The Man in Black” remains one of the best-selling artists of all time. He’s a legend in the world of country and rock for his “rockabilly” style that brought together his signature “chugging” guitar, which sounded like the many trains he sang about, with an incredibly deep and soulful voice.
Cash has often been celebrated, covered, and even imitated. But perhaps one of the most inspired interpretations of his trademark song “Folsom Prison Blues” comes not from musicians who knew him personally, such as Jerry Lee Lewis or bluesman Slim Harpo, but from an anonymous second-grader, who goes only by the moniker “Little John Cash.”
"That's where things really got started for me again." -Johnny Cash to Rolling Stone in 1974 on the Folsom Prison concerts
The great rockabilly star had a ritual that invariably went like this. He would walk up on to the stage, dressed completely in black, and say, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Then he would play the song that everybody wanted to hear, “Folsom Prison Blues.” Cash first wrote the song after watching the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) while he was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in West Germany.
He eventually recorded it at the legendary Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1955 and the song became a huge hit. Cash went on to perform inside the notorious California prison itself, first in 1966 and then again in 1968. The live version of the song recorded inside the prison became a hit and remains the authoritative rendering.
For Johnny Cash, “prisoners are the greatest audience that an entertainer can perform for. We bring them a ray of sunshine into their dungeon, and they’re not ashamed to respond and show their appreciation.”
Given the background of the song, it’s all the more surprising when “Little John Cash” walks out on the stage at what appears to be an elementary school talent show. This young boy has his sleeves rolled up and carries a guitar that’s almost bigger than he is! Yet somehow, the seriousness on his face conveys his huge talent.
With a perfect southern twang, he steps up to the mic and says, in a way that can’t help but evoke the original, “I’m gonna do you a couple songs, and this one’s called ‘Folsom Prison.'”
The audience knew they had an up-and-coming star on their hands as the boy played the opening notes on the guitar and belted out the first lines. “I hear the train a-comin / it’s rollin’ round the bend / and I ain’t seen the sun / since I don’t know when.” Cheers come from the crowd, a woman (perhaps the boy’s proud mom?) yells out, “Go John!”
Watch Johnny perform “Folsom Prison Blues” at the Grand Ole Opry back in 1968. #HBDCash
تم النشر بواسطة Johnny Cash في الخميس، ٢٦ فبراير ٢٠١٥
When the time comes for Little John to do the guitar solo, he leans into a special mic at just his height. You can hardly hear him over the cheers and roars of the crowd. This boy carries the tune all the way to the end, with a swagger in step and hot finger-picking. When he’s done, the whole audience just erupts into cheers.
The ghost of Johnny Cash has definitely been in the house! While the channel the video was posted on doesn’t have any more recent videos of the 7-year-old mini-Man in Black performing, let’s hope that he’ll resurface soon to bring back the spirit of one of America’s greatest musical treasures of all time.
Finish the lyric! Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry…