We’re digging into the Far Out vault to bring you not one, not two but three folk stars as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan join Johnny Cash for a star-studded show.
On this day in 1969, Johnny Cash welcomed the audience at home to his newly acquired country and western set at the Grand Ole Opry. He was the host of a brand new show and he had some stellar guests lined up in Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Below, we’re taking a trip back in time to that show and showcasing just how brilliant it was.
Johnny Cash may have had a bad boy cowboy-like image, always playing the whisky-swilling, cigarette-smoking outlaw to a tee. But what many people forget is that Cash was a family man as well as ‘The Man in Black’. This was best shown in his charming, network-friendly TV programme ‘The Johnny Cash Show’. Running from 1969 to 1971, the show was Cash’s way of cashing in on the fame that had come his way after the huge success of his two live albums. ABC reportedly offered him an hour-long pilot as “a summer replacement for its Saturday night variety extravaganza The Hollywood Palace.”
Although Cash was offered a large degree of freedom in the creation of the show he still had to keep the network and advertisers happy by hosting some of Hollywood’s royalty, like Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, and Peggy Lee to name a few. As well as pleasing the West Coast, Cash also had to appeal to the intelligentsia of the East Coast.
It meant that while the show offered up some incredible moments for Johnny Cash fans often involving his wife June Carter, the Carter Family, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and The Tennessee Three, it also saw Cash welcome some of his most favoured musicians.
For his first show, after giving the audience a bit of Cash swagger, that included the freehweelin’ Bob Dylan and the wonderful Joni Mitchell, it would set a precedent and mark out the show as an integral stop on the promo circuit. Cash and Dylan had been friends since 1964’s Newport Folk Festival and Mitchell’s contribution had similarly not gone unnoticed by the country legend.
He welcomed the former for a performance of his songs ‘I Threw It All Away’ and ‘Livin’ the Blues’ and asked Mitchell to perform her classic track ‘Both Sides Now’. The show’s finale is perhaps the best-remembered moment of the programme as Cash and Dylan sit down to sing ‘The Girl from The North Country’ as a perfect duet.
The track would again be featured in Cash’s duet with Mitchell when he invited her back to perform just a year later. To this day, Johnny Cash’s opening show on this day in 1969, remains one of the grandest meetings of folk singers you’re ever likely to see.
You can watch the full episode below and see this first-ever episode of The Johnny Cash Show.