Today in History... Johnny Cash performs at Folsom Prison

In 1968, Johnny Cash had become famous through hits such as The Ring of Fire, and won a Grammy Award for a duet with wife June Carter on the song Jackson.

Perhaps more importantly for him, he kicked a heavy drug habit after a spiritual experience when he tried to commit suicide in Nickajack Cave.

During his addiction in the 1960s, Cash had cultivated an 'outlaw' reputation. He was slung in jail on a number of occasions by the police for misdemeanour offenses, only to be released the next day. He received a suspended sentence for trafficking prescription drugs and was sued by the government for causing a forest fire by crashing his truck.

Despite never serving a prison term, Cash felt sympathy for inmates and performed at a few starting with Folsom Prison in California which resulted in a very successful live album. He went on to advocate prison reform to Richard Nixon.

Cash's unforgettable singing voice and dark persona have meant that his appeal has lasted after his death in 2003. He made the most recent Top Ten list of dead celebrity earners, having 'earned' $8m through his music after his death.

Johnny Cash Fender Guitar
Johnny Cash's Fender Guitar

Items of Cash memorabilia have been of increasing interest to collectors, probably not harmed by the Joaquin Phoenix film based on his life.

A set of handwritten lyrics to the song Pretty In My Mind (not one of Cash's biggest hits) fetched $12,000 at auction in 2008 whilst a guitar he was playing in the 1960s and early 1970s beat its top estimate at Christie's in December 2009 to sell for $72,000.

As a genuine musical icon, it seems likely that Cash's memorabilia will only increase in value as years go by.


Image: Christie's

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