A song written by Johnny Cash, it was recorded for the first time on July 30, 1955, at the Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, with Cash (vocals, guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar) and Marshall Grant (bass). Like other songs recorded during his first sessions of Sun Records, Cash had no battery in the studio, but he replicated the sound of the box by inserting a piece of paper (like a dollar bill) under the strings of the guitar and playing the rhythm of it on his guitar. The song was produced by Sam Phillips and was released on December 15 of the same year, it reached the position number 4 of the country charts.
The song would be recorded again in 1968 for the album, At Folsom Prison (Columbia 1968), the song would reach number one on July 20, 1968 and would remain 4 weeks in a row at number one.
Cash was inspired to write this song after watching the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) while serving in West Germany in the United States Air Force in Landsberg, Bavaria (in itself, the location of a famous prison) . Cash told how he got the line “But I shot a man in Reno, just to see him die”: “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think of the worst reason a person could have to kill another person , and that’s what came to mind.
Cash took the melody of the song and many of the lyrics of the conceptual album of Seven Dreams of 1953 by Gordon Jenkins, specifically the song “Crescent City Blues”. Jenkins was not credited in the original record, issued by Sun Records. In the early 1970s, after the song became popular, Cash paid Jenkins an agreement of approximately $ 75,000 after a lawsuit.
Bobby Rowan 1959 (Arc Records)
Brian Hyland 1964 (ABC Paramount)
Charley Pride 1966 (RCA)
Porter Wagoner 1967 (RCA)
Bobby Bare 1968 (RCA)
Conway Twitty 1968 (Decca)
Ernest Tubb 1969 (Decca)
Carl Perkins 1969 (Sun Records)
Hank Williams Jr 1970 (MGM)
Hank Snow 1971 (RCA)
..and many more.
Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues lyrics
I hear the train a comin’, it’s rolling ’round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on
But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone
When I was just a baby my mama told me, “Son
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns”
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry
I bet there’s rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smoking big cigars
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me
Well if they freed me from this prison
If that railroad train was mine
I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line
Far from Folsom prison, that’s where I want to stay
And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away