The Story Behind One of Johnny Cash’s Biggest Songs

The very first album I ever got was Johnny Cash Live at San Quentin.  My Aunt Olga got it for me as a birthday present, much against my mother’s wishes because it contained that vulgar song, “A Boy Named Sue.”

Cash did not write that song.  It’s the product of Shel Silverstein.  The song came to the attention of Cash when Shel performed it at one of Cash’s house parties in February 1969.

That must have been a helluva party. Dylan was there, trying out a new song called “Lay Lady Lay.”  Kris Kristofferson had just written something he called “Me and Bobby McGee.”  A Canadian named Joni Mitchell strummed away at “Both Sides Now.”  And there was Silverstein with his song.  

Find the full story here.  Meanwhile, here’s a duet featuring Cash and Silverstein on The Johnny Cash Show from 1970.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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