Before the 1957 appearance of Johnny Cash on Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party TV show, Cash was one of the most consistently high-performing artists on Sun Records. Yet The Man in Black was often left in the shadows of Sun signees Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
The iconic singer had only been recording songs for two years when Ritter’s Ranch Party offered Cash a chance to be beamed into the home of millions of Americans, yet his catalogue of hits was growing by the day.
Songs such as ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Walk the Line’ and ‘Cry! Cry! Cry!’ had made Cash a chart success yet the singer hadn’t quite grabbed the attention of the public with Elvis and Lewis taking much of the popular praise both outside and within Sun records. Cash had to make a change.
The singer, buoyed by the public reception to his music, soon took himself off to the big leagues with a very special performance of his latest song ‘Get Rhythm’ on national television.
The performance is a reminder of the inspiring and meteoric rise of Johnny Cash. Here, performing with the Tennessee Two, he has the hips of Presley and Lewis’ swagger – he is every bit the rock and roll star that you’d expect.
The appearance was a sign of the times, Johnny Cash didn’t get the attention he deserved. He was consistently the best selling and most prolific artist on Sun Record’s roster. But Cash felt constrained by his contract with the small label – it was holding him back both creatively and commercially.
Sun’s head honcho Sam Phillips did not want Cash to record gospel and was paying him a 3% royalty rather than the standard rate of 5%. What’s more, following Presley’s departure from the label, Phillips’ focus was put on Jerry Lee Lewis. Things had gone too far.
The next year Cash would leave Sun Record to sign with Columbia and the next stage of his career would begin. While Phillips would go on to release previously recorded tracks from Cash’s back catalogue but the Man in Black was finally out of the shadows of Sun Records.
It was a giant step that began when Johnny Cash strode on to the television stage and delivered a thunderous performance of ‘Get Rhythm’