About the Book
The most notorious moment on the live 1968 album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison occurs when the Man in Black growls the killer line from his 1956 hit "Folsom Prison Blues"—"I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die"—and a convict whoops seemingly in solidarity. Actually, that reaction was added post-production, writes Streissguth: "[W]hat the record buyers heard after Cash uttered the bloody line was pure image-making.... In reality, the crowd had remained enthralled by the first glimpse and words of the black circuit rider before them,
saving their clamorous gusts exclusively for its conclusion." In this enlightening if slightly disjointed and occasionally hyperventilating look at Cash's most famous album, Streissguth examines not only the concert's genesis and the subsequent revitalization of Cash's career, but also Folsom's difficult history, Columbia Records' reluctance about the project, and the role of the folk movement and late-'60s underground press in moving Cash's public image beyond the hillbilly clichés often plastered on country artists. Most compellingly, it presents a fond but unvarnished portrait of Cash, a moralistic, mordantly witty man fighting his own drug-addiction demons, who viewed his prison concerts (he gave more than 30) as a chance to connect with convicts, not preach at them. The myth-making studio tricks, it seems, were superfluous.