The year 1971 was a banner year for Johnny Cash. He was at the top of his game. He'd just wrapped production on the second and final year of ABC's The Johnny Cash Show, won his sixth Grammy (for "If I Were A Carpenter" with June), and the year saw the release of what of course became his theme song, "Man in Black," which went to #3 on the country charts. He was also with what arguably must have been the greatest country music touring show of all time. This disc captures some of that magic.
Live in Denmark
This previously unreleased live show was recorded in a television studio in Denmark before a small and appreciative audience in 1971, and was shown on Danish television. It hasn't been seen since, until this wonderful release. Featuring the entire Johnny Cash touring show - the Tennessee Three, the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, and Carl Perkins - this tightly filmed, terrific little DVD takes us back to Johnny Cash at the very peak of his popularity. He looked good and sounded great as he took over the small stage with all the power of his personality, just his guitar and his iconic voice, thundering out "Boy Named Sue" with that sparkle in his dark eyes and a slight grin on his face, obviously happy to be exactly where he was doing exactly what he was doing - entertaining folks. It was at this time that Cash began the gradual but inevitable transformation from mere performer to legend. He was on his way to becoming "The Man in Black," the voice and face of country music for many people around the world - but not yet. Here he's just happy to be in front of an audience, and delighted to share his music with people who want to hear it.
Wearing his signature black and performing on a very spare stage with the Tennessee Three (Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums, and Bob Wootton on guitar), Cash launches immediately from a self-censored version of "Boy Named Sue" into "Sunday Morning Comin' Down," and the music doesn't stop. He pauses a few places to speak briefly to the audience - including reading a prepared statement in a Scandinavian tongue (Cash himself mentions Swedish later when talking to June, but since it's in Denmark, it may have been Danish) - then introduces his touring show, beginning with Carl Perkins, who performs "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Matchbox." Later The Statler Brothers join Cash on stage for a few songs, reminding me anew how much I loved the original classic Statlers (I realize Lew DeWitt has been gone for a long time, but they always sounded more like the Statlers when he was with them), singing "Bed of Roses" and "Flowers On The Wall." Johnny then introduces June for a couple of duets, including their brand-new Grammy winner "If I Were A Carpenter."
With most of his show on stage now, Cash sings his newest single, "Man in Black," before making a powerful introduction of the Carter Family (Mother Maybelle, Helen and Anita), with a strong note of pride in his voice as he mentions how pleased he is to have Maybelle for a mother-in-law. I think this was the first time I'd ever seen actual film footage of Mother Maybelle - at least, that I can remember (I'm sure I must have seen her when I was a child). She looks elegant, old-world (of course, like all country music women of the 70's, they're in formal long gowns - I miss those), a little fragile but her voice is strong. Together the Carters perform an instrumental (which is not credited separately), then the girls sing "A Song To Mama," with Cash joining in on the spoken verse. For the finale, the entire show revue gets together for a rousing series of gospel songs, closing out with a powerful and fun version of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee." It's clear Cash is enjoying himself, and his good cheer seems to overflow all over the stage to all the other performers as well as the audience. The show is of course an early 70's time capsule - hair, costumes, film stock - but it's wonderful to see, and a delight from start to finish.
- A Boy Named Sue
- Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
- I Walk The Line
- Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)
- Matchbox (Carl Perkins)
- Me and Bobby McGee
- Guess Things Happen That Way
- Bed Of Roses (Statler Brothers)
- Flowers On The Wall (Statler Brothers)
- Folsom Prison Blues
- Darlin' Companion (with June Carter)
- If I Were A Carpenter (with June Carter)
- Help Me Make It Through The Night (with June Carter)
- Man In Black
- A Song To Mama (with the Carter Family)
- No Need To Worry (full show)
- Rock of Ages (full show)
- Children, Go Where I Send Thee (full show)