40th Anniversary Folsom Prison Concert Cancelled

folsomprison.jpgFrom CNN

FOLSOM, California (AP) — A concert marking the 40th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s famous concert at Folsom State Prison has been scrapped, with the prison and the promoter blaming each other for the cancellation.

The tribute concert, scheduled for Sunday, was to have been staged in the same prison cafeteria where Cash performed before inmates on January 13, 1968. That breakthrough performance became a popular live album.

Prison officials called off the show late Monday, citing problems over filming rights, media access and security concerns.

Promoter Jonathan Holiff claims the cancellation was just another broken promise by prison officials. “I was in tears when I found out,” Holiff said.

Folsom Prison is near where I grew up. When I was a kid I thought the prison we drove past to get to my Grandma’s house in Oakland was Folsom Prison and thought that was cool; in fact, it was the California Medical Facility. I was not so clear on geography as a 4-year-old.

Recently I have been playing “Folsom Prison Blues” my newish Ibanez. My voice is not as low as Johnny Cash’s, but I try to sing it in his key because it sounds so cool. It doesn’t entirely work. In some ways writing songs is actually easier than butchering great songs written by other people.

I always feel weird singing the Reno line; it’s a great line, but whereas Wikipedia suggests that maybe the guy was serving time in Folsom for another offense and Reno being the location of the murder was incidental, I think that line is so central in that song that Wikipedia’s interpretation is ludicrous. The obvious answer is that Arkansan Cash, then in Germany, had no effin’ idea where Reno was. More power to him: improvisation is the soul of creativity.

My favorite musician from the Lousiana Swamp/Blues style, Slim Harpo, did a strange and wonderful cover of “Folsom Prison Blues;” I think it must have been shortly after Cash recorded it. It is completely different than Cash’s and is on Harpo’s amazing Excello Singles collection, well worth listening to.

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