Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tunesday: Folsom Prison Blues

Johnny Cash is a hero of sorts to me. I loved his autobiography and highly recommend it.

I read somewhere else of his beginnings with his band, the Tennessee Two. Johnny had come back from the Air Force and wanted to start a band. He met these guys, Luther and Marshall, and so they'd all get together to play. Problem was they all strummed a guitar, and that's pretty much it. Not much of a band there. Johnny had the voice, and that was OK with everyone, so he'd sing. But they needed a bass player, and they needed a lead guitarist. So Marshall buys a cheap upright somewhere and finds a friend who could teach him how to tune it. Since none of them knew how to play an upright bass, Johnny, Marshall, and Luther sat around finding where the notes were on the strings, and marking them with noted sticky tape. Johnny'd play a note on his guitar, Marshall would find it on the bass. He'd mark it, and onto a different note.

So lead guitar went to Luther. He'd practice for hours and hours, day after day, weeks upon weeks. It didn't come easy, and when it finally came, it still wasn't easy, so he'd stick to the same line every time, methodic, simple, direct, but clear and precise.

It was this fumbling that brought them the sound for which they became famous. A train-like boom-chuck-boom kind of sound. I love that: the sincerity in music, stripped of its pretense, played by guys whose weaknesses became their corporate strength. The idea that what you have to give, nothing more, is good enough. It's liberating as a musician. So here is:

Song: Folsom Prison Blues
Artist: Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two

9 comments:

FancyPants said...

I love this!!!

What a great story and a great man.

Seth Ward said...

Oops. That was me in that comment above.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Yeah, I love this, too. Very cool.

Chaotic Hammer said...

That was actually me in the comment above.

MamasBoy said...

Cool story. I didn't know that.

FancyPants said...

C-Ham: Hardee har har.

MB: Johnny Cash's life is full of stuff like this. Definitely worth the read. I wish I could remember the name of the book where I read this particular story. I think it was actually written by Marshall.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Sorry about that. I'm such a smart aleck. Seth is like this lovable Kermit the Frog type character. He's so fun, and it's sort of funny when he gets picked on for being such a fun character. Or something like that.

FancyPants said...

That was a good natured hardee har har. I thought your comment was really funny.

Please, when you find opportunity to pick on Seth, fire away. He's got it comin' to him if you haven't noticed. =-)

Chaotic Hammer said...

No, I figured it was good-natured, Fancy, but I just don't want to overdo it. We communicate so much in sarcasm and fun at one another's expense. I just don't ever want to take that for granted.

But you're right, I reckon. Seth dishes it out by the bucketful, and certainly seems more than capable of taking it. In fact there are times when he might as well have a big target painted on his chest, with a caption that says "Take your best shot." :-)