• Charles Cherney

137: Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash

As Wikipedia notes, "Folsom Prison Blues" is a song by American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash. Written in 1953, it is one of Cash's signature songs. Cash opened almost all of his concerts with "Folsom Prison Blues."


Cash performed the song at Folsom Prison itself on January 13, 1968, which was recorded and later released as a live album titled At Folsom Prison. You can listen to this live performance below. More than 50 years on, it sounds as it it was just recorded.


"Folsom Prison Blues"


I Hear The Train A-Comin'; It's Rollin' 'Round The Bend,

And I Ain't Seen The Sunshine Since I Don't Know When,

I'm Stuck At Folsom Prison And Time Keeps Draggin' On.

But That Train Keeps A-Rollin'

On Down To San Antone.

When I Was Just A Baby, My Mama Told Me. Son,

Always Be A Good Boy; Don't Ever Play With Guns.

But I Shot A Man In Reno Just To Watch Him Die.

When I Hear That Whistle Blowin'

I Hang My Head And Cry.

I Bet There's Rich Folks Eatin' In A Fancy Dining Car.

They're Prob'ly Drinkin' Coffee And Smokin' Big Cigars,

But I Know I Had It Comin', I Know I Can't Be Free,

But Those People Keep A-Movin',

And That's What Tortures Me.

Well, If They Freed Me From This

Prison, If That Railroad Train Was Mine,

I Bet I'd Move On Over A Little Farther Down The Line,

Far From Folsom Prison, That's Where I Want To Stay,

And I'd Let That Lonesome Whistle

Blow My Blues Away.


Songwriter: Johnny Cash


Johnny Cash was on the rebound at the time of this performance in early 1968. From the Ken Burns PBS documentary on country music, I learned that in the prior year, June Carter had made it clear to Johnny that he needed to get off pills and clean up his act if she was ever going to marry him.


Cash got his act together. And he got the idea to record a live show at a prison to revive his career.


By January 13, 1968, Cash and the Tennessee Three arrived at Folsom Prison in California to perform before a live audience of 3,000 inmates in the prison cafeteria.


Johnny Cash's life story is largely one of redemption. He never did hard time inside the walls of a prison. But he did have, like all of us, his own hard times.


Transport yourself now to Folsom Prison in January 1968 for the entire show and set yourself free: