Bumper Crop of Rare Johnny Cash Due

 

Bootleg Vol. 2 due in
February.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

The musical treasures left behind by Johnny Cash at the
House Of Cash estate in Hendersonville,
Tennessee, continue to provide
insight into his character as an American music icon – perhaps the American music icon.  The rich backwoods archive first bore  fruit on
Columbia/Legacy nearly five years ago, with the release of Personal File aka Bootleg Vol. 1, a fascinating double-CD collection of 49 privately
recorded, intimate solo performances dating from 1973 to 1982.

 

           
FROM MEMPHIS TO HOLLYWOOD: BOOTLEG
VOL. 2
continues the series, as compilation producer Gregg Geller
focuses on the dawning of Johnny Cash’s recording career at Sun Records in
Memphis from late 1954 to late ’57 (on CD One), into his first decade at
Columbia Records in Nashville, from 1958 to 1969 (on CD Two).  BOOTLEG VOL. 2 arrives Feb. 22 on
Legacy.

 

           
Putting the BOOTLEG VOL. 2 collection in historical perspective is a carefully detailed essay written by
Ashley Kahn, author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece
(DaCapo Press, 2000), and other titles.  Kahn also contributes to National
Public Radio. 

 

 

           
The trove of archival material on BOOTLEG
VOL. 2
begins with a 15-minute live radio broadcast from KWEM in
Memphis, hosted by Johnny Cash, who worked for Home Equipment Company, the
show’s sponsor right across the street from the radio station.  The date
was Saturday, May 21, 1955, in the same month that Cash recorded his first Sun
single, “Cry! Cry! Cry!” b/w “Hey Porter.” In
addition to his lively palaver, Cash and the Tennessee Two – guitarist Luther
Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant – performed a handful of tunes, including
the honky tonk “Wide Open Road,” a cover of “One More Ride” (from the Sons Of
the Pioneers), the gospel “Belshazzar,” and the guitar showpiece, “Luther’s
Boogie.”  The broadcast is followed by a one minute spot advertising an
upcoming show at the Overton Park Shell, starring Webb Pierce, Red Sovine,
Elvis Presley, Cash, and other country acts.

 

           
CD One continues with a dozen historically-significant, pre-Sun demos by Cash,
11 of them previously unreleased. 
These rare home-recorded demos served as blueprints to such enduring Cash
originals as “I Walk The Line,” “Get Rhythm” and “Country Boy,” and provide new
insight into Cash’s songwriting.  Two of these demos would soon turn into
rockabilly hits for Roy Orbison (“You’re My Baby”) and Warren Smith (“Rock And
Roll Ruby”).

 

           
Under the heading Sun Rarities are seven outtakes produced between late 1954
and late 1957 by Sam Phillips and Jack Clement.  In addition to familiar
Cash titles (“Big River,” “Wide Open Road”), there are covers of tunes by Jimmy
Rodgers (“Brakeman’s Blues”), Marty Robbins (“I Couldn’t Keep From Crying”),
and Lead Belly (“Goodnight Irene”), an indication of Cash’s abiding interest
and love for the burgeoning folk music movement, whose embrace of him was a
hallmark of his career.  CD One concludes with two final demos, “Restless
Kid” (later recorded by Ricky Nelson), and “It’s All Over.”

 

           
The 25 tracks on CD Two span Cash’s first 11 years at Columbia Records; he was
ultimately with the label for 28 years, through 1986.  This disc presents
a fresh gathering of Columbia non-album singles,
outtakes, and B-sides being released digitally for the first time in the U.S. (11 of them previously unreleased in the U.S.). 

 

           
The move to Columbia also meant a move to Los Angeles for Cash and
his family as he developed a taste for film and television work, both as a
songwriter and as an actor.  In the Golden Age of TV westerns and movies,
Cash was a natural.  His larger-than-life presence boosted the popularity
of the gunfighter ballads and Americana tales that became a pop music genre at
the end of the 1950s and into the ’60s, exemplified by such titles as
“Restless Kid,” “Johnny Yuma Theme,” and “Hardin
Wouldn’t Run.” Another example is “Shifting, Whispering Sands,”
a spoken-sung collaboration with Lorne Greene, better known as Bonanza TV patriarch Ben Cartwright.

 

           
The musical passions of Johnny Cash – from traditional gospel and folk, to Tin
Pan Alley and Music Row, among many other sources – were given full rein in
1969, when The Johnny Cash Show became a weekly event on ABC-TV. 
It is at that point, with the evocative theme of the show’s central feature,
“Come Along And Ride This Train,” that BOOTLEG VOL. 2 concludes.

 

           
“To know the tree,” Kahn sums up, “one should begin at the root – so goes an
old saying.  Yet one is well advised to take in all the branches as well.
 FROM MEMPHIS TO HOLLYWOOD:
BOOTLEG VOL. 2
offers the opportunity to hear Johnny Cash’s earliest
performances plus a wealth of unreleased and unfairly forgotten recordings, to
grasp his commanding, old-growth legend in full.”

 

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