Johnny Cash singing ’12 Days of Christmas’ on The Johnny Cash Show, 1970
Many of us these days are sadly not as familiar with the late, great Johnny Cash as we should be. It is too easy to get caught up in the mystery of ‘The Man in Black’ and forget his more jovial moments. So we thought we’d get a little festive and enjoy his brilliant performance of ’12 Days of Christmas’ from 1970 and not only get into the spirit of the season but show you the lighter side of Johnny Cash.
More often than not people today can confuse the expertly played Joaquin Phoenix depiction of Cash in the biopic Walk The Line — caustic, charismatic and villainous at times. 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.” It has since become a vital part of the singer’s iconography.
Although Cash was offered a large degree of freedom with the show, picking up some of his favourite performers to share the stage with him like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, he still had to keep the network and advertisers happy too. Often he would do that by hosting some of Hollywood’s royalty, like Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, and Peggy Lee to name a few.
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, as Cash took the mic on more than one occasion for every show. But one particularly brilliant moment comes with Cash performing the classic song ’12 Days of Christmas’.
However incredible Cash’s voice is on this performance, and it really is incredible, the main reason we love it is that it serves as a reminder of the brilliantly cheesy state of TV shows in the ’70s. There’s nothing to save face on this clip, just Johnny Cash belting out the ’12 Days of Christmas’ without reproach.