Monday, November 23, 2009

Cash at Folsom Prison

Found a great article about Johnny Cash's famous Folsom Prison Concert:


An excerpt:

Gene Beley was a 28-year-old reporter with the Ventura Star-Free Press when he and the newspaper's chief photographer, Dan Poush, were invited to accompany Cash to Folsom Prison. Cash was living in the Ventura area at the time.

Beley, now 69 and living in Stockton, returned to the prison a few months ago to participate in a BBC radio documentary marking the 40th anniversary of the concert.

"I took a picture along to give Jim Brown as a gift, and he freaked out," Beley said in a telephone interview, describing Brown's excitement upon learning of the photo collection.

Beley, who also recorded the concert on a reel-to-reel tape recorder for reporting purposes, said he had no idea it would prove to be a historic event.

"At the time," he recalled, "John was really on the skids."

Stories in the hometown paper were more often about Cash's brushes with the law – smuggling pills across the Mexican border or driving his Cadillac at high speeds – than about his musical talent, Beley said.

But a meeting between Poush and the Rev. Floyd Gressett at a New Year's Eve party led to an invitation for the photographer and reporter to accompany Cash to Folsom Prison for the Jan. 13 concert. Gressett, a friend of Cash's who ministered to California inmates, had worked with the prison's recreation director, Lloyd Kelley, to set up the concert.

Beley was with Cash's party in a room at West Sacramento's El Rancho Hotel the night before the concert when Gressett asked Cash to listen to a tape recording by Folsom Prison inmate Glen Sherley.

"John said, 'Has anybody got a tape recorder?' " recalled Beley, "and I raised my hand."

Cash leaned over the tape recorder and wrote down the words to Sherley's composition, "Greystone Chapel," which tells of the solace the inmate found in the chapel at Folsom Prison. Cash performed it the following day, and Poush photographed Sherley listening in the audience.

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