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April 18, 2011

Historical Photos of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Concert in 1968

When Johnny Cash stepped onstage at Folsom State Prison in 1968, for the concerts that would change his life, he was in rough shape. His record label had threatened to drop him, his addiction to pills was increasingly out of control, his personal life was in tatters and he had recently contemplated suicide.

On January 13, 1968, after two days of rehearsals in a Sacramento motel, Cash and June Carter, along with the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three, entered Folsom State Prison in Folsom, California.

Cash held two concerts for the inmates, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Many of the songs were prison-themed, from the opening “Folsom Prison Blues” to the execution countdown “25 Minutes to Go.”

The highlight of both performances was the closing song “Greystone Chapel,” which was written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley, who was present for the performance.

Encouraged by concert MC, Hugh Cherry, the convicts in the audience were not shy about responding raucously to Cash’s songs and shout-outs, occasionally unnerving the prison guards.

Upon its release, the album was a critical and commercial success, reinvigorating Cash’s career and inspiring him to record another album at San Quentin Prison the next year.


  1. Ese Johnny Cash!qué bueno!

  2. My understanding is that the crowd reaction on the record was "sweetened" (enhanced in post-production), unlike how it is characterized here. The audience was, or so I was told, so delighted to have the concert that they were on very best behavior in order that such concerts would be allowed again in the future. I find that much more believable than the idea that the guards would allow them to get rowdy and out of control without immediately ending the concert.




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