January 13: At Folsom Prison

JohnnyCash“I just wanted to tell you that this show is being recorded for an album released on Columbia Records, so you can’t say ‘hell’ or ‘shit’ or anything like that.” -Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison

On the morning of January 13, 1968, Johnny Cash went to prison. He left later that afternoon, after recording one of the most iconic concerts of all time.

So, how did Johnny Cash wind up performing at Folsom Prison? Well, it all started back in 1955 when Cash released the song “Folsom Prison Blues.” Unsurprisingly, the song, written from the point of view of a prisoner dreaming of his freedom, became massively popular amongst inmates. In 1957, Cash performed at Huntsville State Prison and over the ensuing years he performed at several other prisons. In the mid-1960s, Cash’s career had hit a bit of a skid due to his increased drug addiction. However, by 1967 he was ready for a comeback and proposed a novel idea to his record company: What if Cash recorded one of his prison concerts? Even better; what if he went to Folsom Prison and sang his hit song?

The bosses at Columbia Records realized this was a winning proposition. On January 13, 1968 Cash, June Carter, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers and the Tennessee Three arrived at Folsom Prison where they performed two concerts for the inmates. Naturally, Cash opened the show with “Folsom Prison Blues,” much to the delight of the audience. His set included several songs about prison, some novelty tunes, a few duets with June Carter and the song “Greystone Chapel” which was written by a Folsom prisoner.

Now, the songs and performances on the ensuing At Folsom Prison record are fantastic, but what makes this record its je ne sais quoi are the audience elements that sneak into the record: The convict audience hoots and hollers during the prison themed songs a little bit more than a regular crowd. In between songs, there are announcements for prisoners to report to certain locations within the prison. Of course, the record’s best moment comes when the prisoners spontaneously boo when the show’s MC mentions one of Folsom’s guards by name. Although Columbia Records did very little to promote At Folsom Prison, the record proved to be a smash success, spawning an artistic and commercial renaissance for Cash.

It was hard finding a prison themed cocktail that wasn’t too disgusting, but the Extended Prison Sentence will work just well enough. It’s an odd mix of whiskey and tequila, because let’s face it, when you’re in prison you’ll drink what you can get. At least it’s better than prison wine.

Extended Prison Sentence

  • 1/2 ounce Whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce Southern Comfort
  • 1/2 ounce Gold Tequila
  • 1 splash pineapple juice

Blend with ice and serve in a highball glass.

Tomorrow: A man with an eponymous rum.

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