Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Before There was NASHVILLE...There was The Man In Black
A lot of people are very excited these days....the ABC Network TV show NASHVILLE has begun shooting its second season in town.
But there was another ABC TV show that first put Music City on the map back in the days that we were on campus at Vanderbilt. Beginning as a summer replacement, THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW ran for 58 episodes from June 7, 1969 until March 31, 1971.
Taped before a live audience at the Ryman Auditorium (the Home of the Grand Ole Opry), the show featured the usual country music greats (such as Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Roger Miller, George Jones, Marty Robbins). But it also had some stars you might not expect including Joni Mitchell, The Monkees (who are back playing the Ryman this week), Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Derek and the Dominoes, Ray Charles, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Carpenters and, in one of his final TV appearances, Louis Armstrong.
One of the Johnny Cash shows in its final season even had a major Vanderbilt theme. Entitled "Johnny Cash On Campus," it was taped before an all-student audience at the Ryman on February 17, 1971. The show also included some segements filmed a few days earlier while Cash was talking to students on the Vanderbilt campus with the Kirkland Hall Tower plainly in the background. Here's a portion of that conversation. The segement also introduces a performance by one of the show's other major stars that night, Neil Young (believe or not)....
Does anyone remember going to this TV show taping? Does any remember Cash coming on campus for his conversation with students? Do you recognize anyone among the students surrounding Cash?
This particular Johnny Cash show episode is also famous for the first performance ever of one of his signature songs ,"The Man in Black." In fact, you can tell from his introduction Cash had just finished the piece, and that his student conversations at Vanderbilt may have moved him to write it.....
The anti-Vietnam War overtones in the "Man In Black"song caught Cash some network flak as did his invitation for folksinger Peter Seeger, an anti-war activist to sing on the show. Ironically, despite its outreach to a younger audience, THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW was cancelled by ABC during the so-called "rural purge" in the summer of 1971 where all three major networks cancelled shows that seemed to appeal to older, rural audiences.