On this day in 1969, Johnny Cash received a Grammy for his live-version of “Folsom Prison Blues” that was recorded while playing a show for the inmates at California’s Folsom Prison.
Cash had written the song in 1953 and recorded it in the studio in 1955, but the live version is the one that is most remembered, and the one that earned him a Grammy.
Cash wrote the song while he was stationed in Germany serving in the military. Cash said that when he wrote the line “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”, he tried to think of the worst reason someone could kill someone else. Cash said, “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.”
Cash opened almost all of his concerts with “Folsom Prison Blues,” after greeting the audience with his trademark introduction, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” for decades. Cash performed the song at Folsom Prison itself on January 13, 1968, and this version was eventually released on the At Folsom Prison album the same year.
The song was a number one hit for Cash in the United States and Canada and crossed over to the Top 40 Charts in the United States.