Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison: Country Music's Greatest Live Document

Hard to beat a record like this for a dollar

The greatest musical artists know how to connect with common everyday folk. Johnny Cash was the epitome of a person with this ability to connect through his lived it style, with absolutely no pretense. Johnny is saying through his music:

It's just me and my thoughts about this world, good or bad, like it or not, nothing more and nothing less. Johnny's style and performance is summed up with this, his 1968 country music masterpiece: At Folsom Prison.

 The record is a live document from Folsom State Prison its self, a prison located 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. Folsom's gates opened in 1880 and it's the second oldest in the state of California, second only to San Quentin. Johnny's 1956 tune "Folsom Prison Blues" is the backbone of this live 1968 recording.

 Johnny delivers one of the most honest readings of the tune on record. The man in black drives home the contemplative mood and bitter irony that most in attendance must have felt.

Owning the audience

These men behind the walls know that Johnny is singing their life stories for all the world to hear, and they seem to really eat it up with a spoon. They cheer the things that put behind that concrete and barbed wire.

 Cash makes the listener outside the bars feel a little uncomfortable too, in the way he makes those behind the bars comfortable. Johnny slyly makes you wonder, perhaps he belongs at Folsom in more than just spirit?

 Perhaps singing about killing a man in Reno is not as far-fetched as one might think for Cash. In any case, Johnny makes you wonder just enough about it to make you squirm. Highlights without a doubt include June Carter Cash joining Johnny for "Jackson", a tune about a man and woman threatening to leave one another for a big night on the town.

 A Personal Favorite of mine is "Cocaine Blues," another brutally realistic, and macabre dose of drug induced reality set to music; and once again, the prisoners are very lively throughout the performance.


 The latter is another dose of the hard cold truth, as many in the audience on this day know they will never see that green grass of home again. For me, what makes Johnny Cash so effective is not his vocal delivery or his instrumental prowess, it's his every-man vibe.

This man sings as if he has lived these stories, and many he actually did at one time or another. Johnny did battle drug addictions just before the recording, and At Folsom Prison helped propel Johnny to a new phase of his career as a member of a new genre known as outlaw country.

That fame never really did fade until his death in 2003 at the age of 71, just 4 months after June Carter passed at the age of 73. I have no problem considering At Folsom Prison to be the greatest country album of all time.

It is not only a country albums, but also a folk album, a blues album, and ultimately a piece of Americana that can not be denied. The music and the tone is a real as it gets, it wears its heart on its sleeve.

The concert, and the inmates never apologize for the realism they display. Johnny himself is smug and inflammatory, John's playing for keeps. From here on out, Johnny became the every man's hero, "the man in black," a somber reminder that not everyone is remembered, not everyone is treated well in this world.

  At Folsom Prison Album cover used with permission from

Herb Alpert's Music Should Be in Every Collection

Alpert has crammed 2 lifetimes into one with his accomplishments

When you think of the greatest selling acts of the 1960's, artists like The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra come immediately to mind.

Most people would be surprised that just those 3 artists sold more records during the decade of the 1960's than Herb Alpert did, a whopping 60 Million records sold!

Since I discovered The Tijuana Brass digging for vinyl records in the thrift stores, the Tijuana Brass have become one of my guilty pleasures, a solid instrumental group that keeps it upbeat and on the lighter side.

The arrangements are always clean and professional with expert playing.

Herb as a trumpet player is underrated with a very clean and recognizable tone. I appreciate the reworkings of standards of the day, most covers of classics are tastefully done.

Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass' sound is a bit dated, but that's one of the reason for listening in the first place

This Guy's in Love With You (#1 Vocal hit)

"RISE" #1 Instrumental Hit from 1979

In October of 1979 Herb Alpert did something that has never been equaled in Pop Music History; His self titled single for the album Rise went to #1 on the Billboard singles charts.

"Rise" was an Instrumental; In 1968 Herb went to #1 with the Burt Bacharach and Hal David written tune "This Guy's in Love With You".

Herb Alpert is the the only artist to go to #1 with a vocal and an instrumental piece.

"This Guy's in Love With You", was also the first #1 hit for Alpert and Jerry Moss' A&M Record label.

The song was first sung on an ABC Television Special with Herb singing the song to his first wife Sharon (Alpert is now married to Singer Lani Hall) The viewership response was so powerful, Alpert decided to release it as a single.

It was then included on the LP The Beat of the Brass, Alpert readily admits he is not a singer, and feels very self conscious about singing the song. In my opinion, this is what gives the song its charm.

Alpert comes across as an authentic regular guy, singing to the one he loves without any hint of put on. "This Guy's in Love With You" stayed at #1 for an astounding 10 weeks on the Easy listening chart, and 4 weeks at #1 on the Top 100 chart.

When you consider how Herb Alpert was already a household name, with several #1 albums under his belt, and had up till that point sold over 50 million records worldwide, this must have pushed Herb into the stratosphere popularity speaking.

Ironically enough, this chart success was a sort of last ride for the Tijuana Brass, as Herb would never again be at the top of the mountain again like this as a recording artist.

With the 60's counter culture, and a new breed of popular music completely taking hold, Herb's positive happy good time music just ran out of steam.

Herb Alpert's Ninth: His Best Album?

Herb Alpert's Ninth is an album released in 1967, It was the last album Alpert released in both mono and stereo.

No doubt if you have heard anything about Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, It will be be the album, "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" and not this album.

After listening to his entire discography, I have decided that Herb Alpert's Ninth is his best fully realized album for my tastes. Though it's not a landslide, with Going Places and Whipped Cream and Other Delights not being at all lesser albums, I just happen to really like "Bud", "Cowboys and Indians, and "The Trolly Song".

My favorite Alpert tune "Bud" is on Ninth, so it edges out those other 2 very good albums slightly. In fact I don't think Herb Alpert ever released a bad album in the 1960's, They all have a similar feel and I am not ashamed to admit it, I like it, it's feel good music.

Alpert's music does have the ability to lift your spirits, and there is nothing wrong with that. The arrangements are little more Jazzy on Ninth as well, which I suppose heightens the credibility of the music for me.

"Bud" is a gorgeous tune, the sparse guitar and the unison horns, with Julius Wechter's Marimba adding to the melancholy nature of the song.

"A Banda" is also a great little shuffle tune, with vibrant upbeat trumpet. He and The Brass never made a better fully realized album than Herb Alpert's Ninth.

Going Places: With "Tijuana Taxi" and "Spanish Flea"

Going Places is an album from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass that has the distinction of knocking The Beatles Rubber Soul out of the #1 spot on the top 100 chart in march of 1966.

Coincidentally, "Rubber Soul" knocked Alpert's Whipped Cream and other Delights out of the top spot. Going Places stayed at #1 for 6 weeks, eventually being knocked out of the #1 spot itself by Ssgt. Barry Sadler's Ballad of the Green Beret.

Alpert, who had just released Whipped Cream and other Delights 6 months earlier was on a real winning streak, with Whipped Cream selling 6 Million copies and Going Places almost as much.

Going Places featured several tunes that were used as TV theme songs, or incidental music on various game shows as well.

"Spanish Flea" was used as the theme song for the Dating Game, and "Tijuana Taxi" was used for an Oscar winning animated short, and "A Walk in the Black Forrest" was used in a television commercial for super market chain Piggly Wiggly.

"Tijuana Taxi" features a bicycle horn effect that is more exaggerated on the released single. The entire album is very good, with up lifting happy tunes. and a few romantic style numbers like "Mae" and "Felicia".

Whipped Cream and Other Delights

Whipped Cream and Other Delights is a classic of the 1960's, complete with the controversial and racy album cover. The cover, very racy by mid 60's standards has become one of the most recognized covers in music history.

A pair of tunes from the album were used on the TV show The Dating Game, "Whipped Cream" and "Lollipops and Roses" respectively, then "Bittersweet Samba" was used on the radio show All Night Nippon.

I have really grown to respect Herb Alpert more and more as I have learned more about him, and how at nearly 80 years of age he is still releasing great music with his wife singer Lani Hall. Herb Alpert is not only a great musician, his a national treasure.

Herb and his wife Lani Hall discussing their careers

*All photos are LP covers from my own collection*

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Jason Sositko is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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While I am an and eBay affiliate, I have NOT been paid by any of these manufacturers for my reviews. These reviews are based on my first hand experiences good or bad. I have been buying and selling new and used record players for many years, and have tested many of these mentioned here, and many more not listed here.*