Johnny Cash at San Quentin is the 31st overall album and second live album by American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, recorded live at San Quentin State Prison on February 24, 1969, and released on June 16 of that same year. The concert was filmed by Granada Television, produced and directed by Michael Darlow. The album was the second in Cash's conceptual series of live prison albums that also included At Folsom Prison (1968), På Österåker (1973), and A Concert Behind Prison Walls (1976).
|At San Quentin|
|Live album by|
|Released||June 16, 1969|
|Recorded||February 24, 1969|
|Venue||San Quentin State Prison, California|
|Producer||Bob Johnston (original)|
Bob Irwin (re-release)
|Johnny Cash chronology|
|Singles from At San Quentin|
The album was certified gold on August 12, 1969, platinum and double platinum on November 21, 1986, and triple platinum on March 27, 2003, by the RIAA. The album was nominated for a number of Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and won Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "A Boy Named Sue."
There have been several releases with different songs and set order. The album cover photo by Jim Marshall is considered to be an iconic image of Cash, with Marshall Grant's Epiphone Newport bass guitar famously silhouetted in the foreground.
Johnny Cash had previously recorded a concert at a prison in 1968 at Folsom State Prison. This concert was recorded for a live LP and a television documentary for the UK. On the original LP release, the song order was changed and several songs were cut, presumably for space reasons. Despite the timing limitations of the vinyl LP format, however, both performances of the song "San Quentin" (Cash agreed to perform an encore at the audience's request) are included on the original album. Early CDs that feature this and At Folsom Prison on the same disc, however, contain only the second version due to time constraints. Some of the songs were censored. Despite the title of the version released on CD in 2000 – At San Quentin (The Complete 1969 Concert) – the CD does not contain the entire concert uncut, but does feature additional tracks and running order that parallels the actual setlist. Performed but not included were the songs "Jackson" and "Orange Blossom Special", which are included in the video release of the show (both songs had been included in At Folsom Prison). Two songs were somehow slowed down by half a step ("Starkville City Jail" and "Blistered"), possibly due to using another tape machine while the tape on the original machine was changed.
This was Cash's first album recorded without his longtime lead guitar player and Tennessee Two founder Luther Perkins, who had died several months earlier. On the album, Cash is heard paying tribute to Perkins (who was not related to Carl Perkins, who appears on the recording as lead guitarist on several tracks).
Two songs are performed live on stage for the first time during the show: "San Quentin" and "A Boy Named Sue". According to biographer Robert Hilburn, the decision had already been made for Cash to perform "San Quentin" twice as it was considered the major new song of the set, though on record Cash makes it appear as if the encore is due to audience demand; producer Bob Johnson ultimately chose to include both versions of the song on the album. According to Hilburn, Cash spontaneously decided to perform "A Boy Named Sue" during the show and neither the TV crew nor his band knew he planned to do it (though he gave them advance warning by announcing early in the show his intent to play it); he used a lyric sheet on stage while the band improvised the backing.
TV special and middle finger photo edit
A crew from Granada Television in the UK filmed the concert for broadcast on television. In the extended version of the concert released by Columbia/Legacy in 2000, Cash is heard expressing frustration at being told what to sing and where to stand prior to his performance of "I Walk the Line". The famous image of an angry-looking Cash giving the middle finger gesture to a camera originates from the performance; in his liner notes for the 2000 reissue, Cash explains that he was frustrated at having Granada's film crew blocking his view of the audience. When the crew ignored his request to "clear the stage", he made the gesture.
|Blender (2000 edition)|||
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Great Rock Discography||7/10|
|Music Story|||
|MusicHound Country||4.5/5|
|PopMatters (2006 edition)||10/10|
Reviewing for The Village Voice in 1969, Robert Christgau said of the album, "Much inferior to Folsom Prison and Greatest Hits, which is where to start if you're just getting into Cash. Contains only nine songs, one of which is performed twice. Another was written by Bob Dylan." Rolling Stone magazine's Phil Marsh wrote, "Cash sounds very tired on this record ('ol' Johnny does best under pressure,' he says), his voice on some songs just straying off pitch. But the feeling that actual human communication is taking place more than compensates for this. Communicating to an audience at the time is becoming a lost art because of the ascension of recorded music as the music of this culture."
Reviewing the 2000 Columbia/Legacy reissue, Blender magazine's Phil Sutcliffe said, "Cash, just 25 [sic], sings as old as the hills — and looks oddly Volcanic. Prisoners 'have their hearts torn out,' Cash reckoned. It sounds as if he did too, wild-eyed and shuddering at the oppression of the walls. The crowd is a 1,000-strong caged animal. The reissue, with nine extra tracks, surpasses the vinyl original."
Track listing edit
Original release edit
|1.||"Wanted Man"||Bob Dylan||3:24|
|2.||"Wreck of the Old 97"||arranged by Cash, Bob Johnston, Norman Blake||2:17|
|3.||"I Walk the Line"||Johnny Cash||3:13|
|4.||"Darling Companion"||John Sebastian||6:10|
|5.||"Starkville City Jail"||Johnny Cash||2:01|
|1.||"San Quentin"||Johnny Cash||4:07|
|2.||"San Quentin" (performed a second time at the audience's request)||Johnny Cash||3:13|
|3.||"A Boy Named Sue"||Shel Silverstein||3:53|
|4.||"(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley"||Thomas A. Dorsey||2:37|
|5.||"Folsom Prison Blues"||Johnny Cash||1:29|
2000 CD reissue edit
All tracks are written by Johnny Cash except where noted
|2.||"I Still Miss Someone" (J. Cash, Roy Cash)||1:52|
|3.||"Wreck of the Old 97" (*arranged by Cash, Johnston, Blake)||2:05|
|4.||"I Walk the Line"||3:29|
|5.||"Darlin' Companion" (Sebastian)||3:21|
|6.||"I Don't Know Where I'm Bound" (Terry Cuddy)||2:24|
|7.||"Starkville City Jail"||6:15|
|10.||"Wanted Man" (Dylan)||3:24|
|11.||"A Boy Named Sue" (Silverstein)||3:59|
|12.||"(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley" (Dorsey)||2:30|
|13.||"Folsom Prison Blues"||4:24|
|14.||"Ring of Fire" (June Carter, Merle Kilgore)||2:07|
|15.||"He Turned the Water Into Wine"||4:01|
|16.||"Daddy Sang Bass" (Carl Perkins)||2:43|
|17.||"The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago" (L.R. Dalton)||2:16|
|18.||"Closing Medley: Folsom Prison Blues/I Walk the Line/Ring of Fire/The Rebel-Johnny Yuma" (Cash/Cash/Carter, Kilgore/R. Markowitz, A. Fenady)||5:08|
Has no author-credit. Apparently David G. George did not win a lawsuit against RCA-Victor in 1933 over the copyrights for this song.
It is worth noting, however, that it seems to be widely accepted that Henry Whitter wrote the music, as "The Ship That Never Returned"; Fred Lewey wrote the original words, and Charles Noell wrote the original two additional verses.
2006 Legacy edition edit
|1.||"Blue Suede Shoes"||Carl Perkins||Carl Perkins||3:52|
|2.||"Flowers on the Wall"||Lew DeWitt||The Statler Brothers||3:27|
|3.||"The Last Thing on My Mind"||Tom Paxton||The Carter Family||3:34|
|4.||"June Carter Talks to The Audience"||June Carter||June Carter||3:27|
|5.||"Wildwood Flower"||Maud Irving, Joseph Philbrick Webster||The Carter Family||3:49|
|6.||"Big River"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash||1:43|
|7.||"I Still Miss Someone"||Johnny Cash, Roy Cash||Johnny Cash||1:50|
|8.||"Wreck of the Old '97"||Johnny Cash, Johnston, Blake||Johnny Cash||3:24|
|9.||"I Walk The Line"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash||2:28|
|10.||"Medley: Long Black Veil/Give My Love to Rose"||Danny Dill, Marijohn Wilkin||Johnny Cash||4:06|
|11.||"Folsom Prison Blues"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash||3:00|
|12.||"Orange Blossom Special"||Ervin T. Rouse||Johnny Cash||3:03|
|13.||"Jackson"||Jerry Leiber, Billy Edd Wheeler||Johnny Cash, June Carter and Carl Perkins||3:23|
|14.||"Darlin' Companion"||John B. Sebastian||Johnny Cash, June Carter, Carl Perkins||2:24|
|15.||"Break My Mind"||John Loudermilk||The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||2:56|
|16.||"I Don't Know Where I'm Bound"||Terry Cuddy||Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins||5:14|
|17.||"Starkville City Jail"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins||3:32|
|1.||"San Quentin"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash||4.09|
|2.||"San Quentin"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash||3:13|
|3.||"Wanted Man"||Bob Dylan||Johnny Cash||3:29|
|4.||"Restless"||Carl Perkins||Carl Perkins||3:54|
|5.||"A Boy Named Sue"||Shel Silverstein||Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins||3:45|
|6.||"Blistered"||Billy Edd Wheeler||Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins||1:46|
|7.||"(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley"||Thomas A. Dorsey||Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||3:13|
|8.||"The Outside Looking In"||Carl Perkins||Carl Perkins||3:00|
|9.||"Less of Me"||Glen Campbell||The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins||2:45|
|10.||"Ring of Fire"||June Carter, Merle Kilgore||Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||2:07|
|11.||"He Turned The Water Into Wine"||Johnny Cash||Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||4:01|
|12.||"Daddy Sang Bass"||Carl Perkins||Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||2:43|
|13.||"The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago"||Larry Dalton||Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins||2:16|
|14.||"Closing Medley: Folsom Prison Blues/I Walk The Line/Ring of Fire/Folsom Prison Blues/The Rebel – Johnny Yuma/Folsom Prison Blues"||Johnny Cash/June Carter, Merle Kilgore/Andrew Fenady, Richard Markowitz||June Carter/The Carter Family/The Statler Brothers/Carl Perkins/Johnny Cash||5:08|
Disc three (DVD)
The original 1969 documentary produced by Granada TV in the U.K. chronicles Cash's historic concert at the maximum security prison. Includes footage of the concert that became the 1969 best-selling LP, and features an edited performance of the number 1 hit "A Boy Named Sue". Also contains one-on-one interviews with several of the prison guards and inmates, talking about their time and experiences behind bars. (Running time: approx. 60 minutes)
|2.||"Wreck of the Old 97"||3:24|
|3.||"I Walk the Line"||2:15|
|5.||"Starkville City Jail"||2:22|
|8.||"A Boy Named Sue"||3:54|
|9.||"Peace in the Valley"||2:37|
|10.||"Folsom Prison Blues"||1:29|
Several tracks on the original LP are preceded by several minutes of Cash talking to the audience, including a tangent where Cash is recorded trying to get his guitar tuned on stage. The original LP release bleeps profanity, including on "A Boy Named Sue" but later issues including the Legacy edition are uncensored. The original album's closing track "Folsom Prison Blues" is a partial performance of the song edited from a longer medley available in complete form in later reissues.
Album – Billboard (United States)
Certifications and sales edit
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000*|
|United States (RIAA)||3× Platinum||3,000,000^|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
- Friedman, Lou (November 15, 2006). "Johnny Cash: At San Quentin". PopMatters. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
- Hendrickson, John (December 2, 2014). "Exclusive: New Photos of Johnny Cash at San Quentin Prison". Esquire. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
- Independents Struggle. Quartet Books. 2004. ISBN 0-7043-8155-9.
- Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: The Life (New York: Little, Brown, 2013), p. 353-355
- Johnny Cash (March 2000), "The Bird," Johnny Cash at San Quentin liner notes, Columbia/Legacy CK 66017, 2000
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Johnny Cash at San Quentin Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
- Sutcliffe, Phil (July 4, 2000). "Guide". Blender. Archived from the original on October 19, 2006. Retrieved October 19, 2006.
- Duerden, Nick (April 2007). "Johnny Cash - At San Quentin". Q (249): 126.
- Christgau, Robert (July 31, 1969). "Consumer Guide (2)". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- Marsh, Phil (26 July 1969). "Johnny Cash: At San Quentin". Rolling Stone. No. 38. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. p. 36. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- "Platinum and Gold Singles 1982". Kent Music Report. 28 February 1983. Retrieved 10 November 2021 – via Imgur.
- "Canadian album certifications – Johnny Cash – At San Quentin". Music Canada. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
- "The Irish Charts - 2006 Certification Awards - Gold". Irish Recorded Music Association.
- "Yes, We Accept Cash" (PDF). Cash Box. May 15, 1975. p. 47. Retrieved November 10, 2019 – via World Radio History.
- "British album certifications – Johnny Cash – San Quentin". British Phonographic Industry.
- "American album certifications – Johnny Cash – At San Quentin". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
- At San Quentin (2000 CD release)[permanent dead link] (Adobe Flash) at Radio3Net (streamed copy where licensed)
- Sony/Columbia/Legacy Johnny Cash At San Quentin liner notes legacyrecordings.com.
- At San Quentin – Legacy Edition
- Daniel Geary, "'The Way I Would Feel About San Quentin': Johnny Cash and the Politics of Country Music," Daedalus, 142 (Fall 2013), 64-72. http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/DAED_a_00234