I have a confession to make. No, it’s not the murdering kind that many of my once 93 guys made. Mine may be more shocking, actually. Ok, here goes.
I have never listened to “Folsom Prison Blues.”
There, I’ve said it. And I’m not ashamed—I even feel better.
Let me begin with some background: Johnny Cash performed at Folsom prison on November 8, 1966 and later recorded his album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968. Many people think the musician served time at Folsom, possibly because of this mug shot:
(He did in fact spend time in a Texas pen for drug possession charges). In his book, Folsom Prison, Jim Brown explains that Cash had this mock mug shot taken as a joke. Brown notes that the bandage is presumably designed to make people think guards roughed the singer up a bit. Saul Holiff, son of Cash’s one-time manager, Jonathan Holiff, donated this “mug shot” to the Folsom Prison Museum in 2007.
So what’s my angst with the song? It developed over time. My book covers the years of 1895-1937 and when I began my online research, “Johnny Cash” and his 1960s hit, “Folsom Prison Blues” dominated the results. I promised myself (and everyone else) that I’d give it a listen one of these days. I meant it, too.
As time went on and more Johnny/Folsom stuff kept infiltrating my research, I grew bitter, determined to show that Folsom prison is more than just a song. People assume I’ve heard this popular prison tune and are usually flabbergasted when I tell them the truth. I’ve evolved into one of those curmudgeons, stuck in their ways; holding onto an irrational gripe about something silly, for no apparent reason. When I toured the prison this last January, we strolled past the spot where the concert took place. When the guard pointed it out, you can bet I rolled my eyes. I know, it’s terrible. I developed this absurd hated for a song I’ve never heard.
For those of you who don’t have this illogical aversion to “Folsom Prison Blues,” I’ve included a link to several renditions of this song. Knock yourself out.
TELL ME: HAVE YOU HEARD THE SONG? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE VERSION?