From the Global BC archives: Johnny Cash on how 1968’s ‘At Folsom Prison’ revitalized his career

Click to play video: 'From 1968: Johnny Cash on recording ‘At Folsom Prison’, his own arrest and becoming a country music star' From 1968: Johnny Cash on recording ‘At Folsom Prison’, his own arrest and becoming a country music star
WATCH: American music legend Johnny Cash speaks in a 1968 television interview about recording his now iconic album, "At Folsom Prison." Cash would go on to be one of the best-selling music artists of all time – Jan 10, 2019

Johnny Cash is one of the best-selling and most influential country music artists of all time, but in the late 1960s his career was in trouble as his life became consumed by substance abuse.

As Cash started to turn things around, he recorded At Folsom Prison, a live album that rejuvenated his career and introduced country music to a new audience.

Recorded on Jan. 13, 1968, the album, recorded live at California’s Folsom State Prison, became a sensation topping country music charts while also crossing over into the mainstream.

A month after recording At Folsom Prison, Cash proposed to June Carter — who supported him during his darkest days — onstage during a concert in London, Ontario.

Not long after the album was released in May, The Man in Black visited Vancouver where he was interviewed by CHAN’s Chuck Davis.

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His dark-coloured jacket blending into the black background, Cash told CHAN that he had long enjoyed playing for audiences in prison.

Johnny Cash puts on a show for about 800 inmates at Arkansas’ Cummins Prison Farm in 1969. Getty Images

“The first time I played a prison, I said this is the only place to record an album live because I never heard a reaction to the songs like the prisoners gave,” he said.

“They weren’t ashamed to show their appreciation or their enthusiasm for anything that we did.”

Cash later recorded live albums at San Quentin Prison, Sweden’s Österåker Prison and Tennessee Prison.

READ MORE: How a bloody riot and massive prison break brought down Oakalla, B.C.’s most notorious jail

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Davis asked Cash if part of the inspiration for At Folsom Prison came from the fact he had spent time in jail.

“Well, not for long,” interrupted Cash.

Davis noted that some popular country musicians of the era, such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves, grew to dislike being referred to as “country” artists.

Cash didn’t seem too worried about labels.

“Call me the way you see me,” he said.

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